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Military

CHAPTER 3

Terrain Analysis Considerations

by MAJ Chris Kramer, U. S. Army Engineer School

Chapter 2:  D-180 Training Plan
Table of Contents
Chapter 4:  Setting the Conditions for the Breach

"I approve of all methods of attacking provided they are directed at the point where the enemy's army is weakest and where the terrain favors them least."

--Frederick the Great

Introduction

Proper terrain analysis is as essential to success on the battlefield today as it was when Frederick the Great ruled Prussia over 200 years ago. It is especially relevant when a force must attack an enemy which has had time to prepare a well-organized defense. This is exactly the situation most units training at U.S. Army Combat Training Centers (CTCs) must confront. Recent CTC trends indicate that units are having difficulty conducting successful combined arms breaching operations. Staff planners can help reverse that trend by mastering categories of terrain analysis tasks which foster mobility and breach operation planning. Today's planners use modern automated tools and equipment to achieve very detailed analyses of the terrain and weather. The utility and availability of these tools continues to increase, and they provide timely support to time-strapped planners.

The Planner's Role

Most staff planners at the brigade level and below, especially the intelligence officer, assistant brigade engineer and task force engineer, realize the important role they have in conducting terrain analysis tasks in support of maneuver and breach operations planning. All BOS (Battlefield Operating Systems) representatives must consider the terrain's effects, in that the maneuver S-2 must work with Engineer, Armor, Field Artillery, Infantry, Air Defense and others to properly template and assess friendly avenues of approach, enemy obstacles and enemy battle positions (BPs). These BOS planners must survey the terrain for areas which may be used for support-by-fire (SBF) positions, attack-by-fire (ABF) positions, any covered and concealed routes into these positions, and other locations important in the planning process.

Once planners complete the initial mission analysis/IPB (Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield), many planners think that their role as terrain analysts/integrators is complete. The reality is that the planner must perform continuous analysis through the entire planning, preparation and execution phases. Planners and units must be prepared to modify their plan based on this continuous evaluation of data and the situation. Planners must continually and rapidly analyze, integrate and disseminate validated enemy obstacle and dispositional intelligence. CTC trends also show a reluctance of units to modify their plans, even when indicators are present that should prompt them to make adjustments. The engineer bears considerable responsibility for this process as the force's primary expert on the terrain and its effects.

Commanders and staffs should be prepared to incorporate adjustments to the scheme of maneuver plan even during the execution of the plan, provided the recommended change makes timely, tactical sense. For instance, if R & S (Reconnaissance and Surveillance) reveals a previously unknown weakness in the enemy frontage or obstacle system, or notes a previously unidentified obstacle system on a planned route, the staff should have already built in the flexibility needed to quickly adjust the original plan.

Categories of Terrain Analysis

A TTP (tactic, technique and procedure) for grouping the terrain analysis tasks associated with planning for breaching operations places the tasks into three general categories: tasks that support template analysis, tasks that support maneuver analysis, and tasks that support planning for the breach force and assault force.

The first category, "Template Analysis" tasks, includes tasks associated with templating enemy obstacles and BPs.

The second category, "Maneuver Analysis" tasks, deals with those tasks that assist maneuver units in selecting avenues of approach (AAs) and positions which best support accomplishing their assigned tasks. It also uses information on enemy obstacles, positions, and the terrain to select the best area(s) for the point of breach (POB) and point of penetration (POP).

The final category, "Breach Analysis" tasks, involves unit-level planning for placement of vehicles and the assets used to conduct the POB and POP missions. We will examine each of these categories in more detail to emphasize the important role that planners have in influencing the decision to move and breach in the most advantageous area(s).

TERRAIN TASK CATEGORIES

Depiction of template analysis
Template Analysis
Depiction of maneuver analysis
Maneuver Analysis
Depiction of breach analysis
Breach Analysis

Template Analysis

The template analysis provides a doctrinal basis for estimating enemy disposition and alignment. The purpose of the tasks associated with Template Analysis is to develop an accurate situational template (SITTEMP). In creating the SITTEMP, the doctrinal template is fitted to the situation. Validated intelligence of the actual enemy composition, disposition and intent, confirmed obstacle effort, and the effects of terrain and weather help predict the most likely COA. Each separate staff planner brings a particular specialty to the table to assess and estimate their enemy counterpart's capabilities, limitations and intentions, and assists in developing several potential enemy COAs.

Planners begin by analyzing the natural and manmade features of the terrain (roads, cities, vegetation, streams, hills) and the first three military aspects of terrain (the O-C-O in OCOKA) to create a COO (Combined Obstacles Overlay). This product reflects the physical effects of the terrain and weather on the battlefield, particularly with respect to mobility. This overlay is the base product upon which the planner builds the MCOO (Modified Combined Obstacles Overlay). The planner then adds the assessments from the MCOO to the doctrinal template to create the situational template.

The engineer planner plays a key role in this process. His knowledge of obstacle tactics, the effects of terrain and weather, enemy obstacle composition, and enemy engineer capabilities assists the S-2 in accurately estimating enemy countermobility and survivability effort and templating its most likely location. Each BOS element adds similar input to the SITTEMP.

Terrain teams are especially valuable in this process, as each unit's supporting terrain team creates a detailed COO for each AO and AI. Many planners are unfamiliar with the mission, capabilities, and support provided by terrain teams, as well as how to receive or request this support. Terrain team products enable friendly forces to maximize the use of the terrain in any military operation. For more information on the terrain teams and the products they create for the force, see the "Tools" and "Products" sections later in this article and FM 3-34.230, Topographic Operations.

Doctrinal knowledge and existing obstacle intelligence, combined with terrain products created either by the unit or a terrain team, greatly facilitate the planner's ability to select the most likely locations of enemy BPs, as well as the likely visibility and available fields of fire from those BPs. Examples of these products include weapons fan (Figure 1) and line-of-sight (LOS) analyses (Figure 2).

Depiction of weapons fan and range circle product

Figure 1. Weapons Fan and Range Circle Product near Alpha Pass at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, CA. Product depicts weapons fans with range circles at 2,500 meters. Product created using digital elevation and image data of NTC in TerraBase II, ver. 3.0.

Depiction of line-of-sight product

Figure 2. Line-of-Sight (LOS) product from the National Training Center. Image on left is a LANDSAT image of NTC showing the LOS trace from origin (A) from Bicycle Lake across Tiefort Mountain to the endpoint (B). Image on right depicts the topography from A to B (vertical exaggeration 7.9x). Both products were created using TerraBase II version 3.0 and digital data of NTC.

A weapons fan product is normally created using digital map or digital image data of the area of operations plus digital elevation data. The product is a graphic depiction of the terrain that is directly visible or not visible from a position on the ground, and can, therefore, be hit with direct fire or is deadspace. The user specifies the location of the weapon, its height above the ground, the target's height above the ground, and how far out from the weapon the fan extends (the maximum effective range). The user can also draw a circle around the weapon at its maximum effective range, thus identifying where the weapon cannot reach its maximum range. Figure 1 is a weapons fan product of an area at the National Training Center (NTC) at Fort Irwin, CA. This product shows three weapons fans: two in valleys and one in the center of a broad plain. The fans are drawn with range circles at a maximum effective range of 2,500 meters. The weapons in the valleys can only fire for a short distance before their visibility ends; the center weapon can reach out to its maximum effective range in nearly every direction. Depending on the software used, the product may or may not consider the effects of vegetation on visibility. These products can be useful to any BOS. The product helps to precisely place BPs and obstacle systems for maximum advantage. For instance, the planner can position vehicles to place interlocking direct fire on an obstacle system while using terrain features to shield themselves from direct fire. A unit planner can create this product in minutes.

The line of sight (LOS) example in Figure 2 is another product that unit-level planners can quickly create. These products are prepared using common software (TerraBase II), and are used to determine intervisibility between two precise points on the ground.

Another example of template analysis involves knowledge of soil conditions and doctrine. The engineer planner can use detailed knowledge of the soils in the AO combined with doctrinal knowledge of enemy survivability equipment to identify areas where the enemy is likely to construct vehicle fighting positions and the total number that the enemy can realistically dig in the time available. In addition, the engineer, knowing enemy obstacle emplacement equipment and techniques, can also estimate the total amount of enemy obstacle effort available. This information, used with the previously mentioned products and the soils analysis, helps to template where and how the enemy will defend. The SITTEMP is an estimate of how the enemy will defend, and assists in driving R&S planning. As R&S confirms or denies the estimate, the S-2 and engineer refine and adjust the SITTEMP. This requires the staff to continually refine, adjust and synchronize the scheme of maneuver based on the likely enemy defensive posture.

Maneuver Analysis

The next category of terrain analysis tasks provides planning support to COA development. Maneuver analysis helps resolve questions concerning on-road and off-road trafficability, denied routes, the locations of enemy positions or obstacles, and numerous other similar considerations. Maneuver analysis helps determine the optimum locations for support-by-fire (SBF) positions, attack-by-fire (ABF) positions, the POB and POP, hide positions, and indirect fire targeting. The result of maneuver analysis is our most advantageous use of the terrain in the attack.

The terrain and how the weather affects it is a common thread binding each BOS together in the overall staff planning process. Every ground vehicle must move on the same terrain in the AO or AI. Their movement and actions are often constrained to specific AAs or mobility corridors leading to the point of breach. Planners must consider these constraints, for if the terrain or weather allows the combat power to outstrip its resupply, or if combat vehicles are forced into moving too slowly or for too long in open areas, the result can range from a slowed or incomplete mission to unacceptable losses or mission failure.

Since this set of tasks requires analysis of how vehicles will interact with the terrain, it requires a somewhat different focus. The planner can use the MCOO to classify the AAs and cross-mobility corridors as unrestricted, restricted or severely restricted. The planner can then determine the tactical viability of each AA or corridor, verifying data such as:

  • Estimated vehicle/convoy speed.
  • Total vehicle capacity (either in a column for a convoy or across a frontage in a maneuver formation).
  • Provision for two-way traffic and resupply/rest/repair areas.
  • The numbers of natural or manmade obstacles along the route.
  • The numbers of gaps or water-crossing sites.
  • The route's composition (gravel, dirt, pavement) and its potential for degradation in inclement weather.
  • The amount of cover and concealment, where it is good and where it is not.
  • The route's proximity or directness to the proposed POB and POP.
  • The availability of space for the force to transition from convoy "formation" to attack formation with minimal difficulty.

The SITTEMP and MCOO (created by the engineer/S2), combined with information from unit-created products and specialized products from the terrain team, help to conduct this analysis.

The terrain team produces specific products to support this analysis, including visible area plot, elevation, slope, soil, and route maneuverability/trafficability products. The cross-country (off-road) and on-road trafficability products are especially useful in this analysis. The planner can create or use weapons fan and line-of-sight plots to identify areas the enemy could use for ambush sites and the likely locations of the ambush vehicles. The planner can use the same analysis process to identify the optimum covered/concealed routes away from the breach site toward the POP (on the far side of the objective).

Planners must conduct an integrated analysis of the weather and terrain using full situational awareness. Rainfall on the generally rocky, nonvegetated terrain at the NTC will have a different set of effects than on the generally wetter, heavily vegetated terrain in Korea or Europe. In addition, planners must separately evaluate each dry or wet gap as a potential obstacle given the composition of the force and the outlook of the weather. When there is no rainfall, maneuver units may be capable of crossing dry or wet gaps without engineer support. As rainfall increases, however, dry gaps become wet and wet gaps can become passable only with bridging assets or ford preparation, requiring bypass if such assets are unavailable. Each gap the force must cross is a drain on time and assets, and requires a significant amount of coordination. When the force must use crossing assets, staff planners must ensure there are sufficient assets to make an uninterrupted series of crossings along the planned route(s).

Breach Analysis

Breach analysis tasks are an extension of maneuver analysis tasks, and involve detailed breach planning at the unit level. The planner must evaluate the routes from the LD through both tactical and protective obstacles. The planner must consider the terrain, the weather, the SITTEMP, current obstacle intelligence, friendly movement capabilities, the optimal sites for ABF and SBF positions, friendly and enemy weapon systems capabilities, and any other information relevant to the operation. All planners must ensure they fully analyze, resource, plan and coordinate each of the breaching fundamentals (Suppress, Obscure, Secure, Reduce, Assault, or SOSR-A) (FM 3-34.2). A breach is a mission shared by many BOSs, and is critically dependent on proper evaluation and use of the terrain and weather and full participation by all BOSs.

At the breach site itself, the planner's role is critical in influencing the selection of the POB. Planners should use the MCOO, the SITTEMP, terrain team products, unit terrain products, the most recent R&S ground intelligence or the most recent imagery (from a plane, UAV or satellite) of the routes and obstacle systems that exists. These products and data allow the planner to get near-real-time data on obstacles, enemy positions, and potential breach sites.

Once the locations of the enemy obstacles and BPs are known, the planner can use the products to identify the terrain most vulnerable to direct fire from enemy BPs. The planner can use IV line, weapons fan plots and select line-of-sight analyses to choose the optimal locations for SBF and ABF positions, the most covered/concealed routes into them, and the POB. The planner can pinpoint enemy direct fire systems and obstacles, check enemy obstintel, and the POB. He can analyze the POB to determine the best assets and how to employ them in the breach drill/execution (breach force unit-level planning). The planner can use reverse LOS analysis or weapons fan plots from each proposed SBF position to identify how many BPs can observe activities at the SBF position and along the obstacle. If the planner knows the locations of individual fighting positions, he can identify exactly which positions are within range of, and are able to observe, the obstacles and SBF positions. In this way, the planner pinpoints locations along the obstacles which may provide cover or concealment from the most direct fire weapons systems. He can select the positions that the breach force's security element can use to provide local security at the breach sites.

Planners also support the breach force commander with vegetation and soil condition overlays that indicate areas that are conducive to the breaching techniques available (mechanical, explosive, manual or electronic). Terrain products indicate the type of terrain in the area (rolling, rocky, soft) and its micro-effects on visibility, movement and breaching. The engineer and S-2 also use the MCOO to identify mobility corridors the enemy could use for a counterattack. Based on these analyses, the planner can recommend the best area(s) for the breach.

Tools

There are two primary tools used in the field to conduct terrain/battlefield evaluation and visualization. The Digital Topographic Support System (DTSS) (Figure 3) is the terrain team's primary automated tool used to create terrain products.

Photo of sample DTSS arrangementTerraBase II is the primary automated PC-based tool used by units at the brigade level and below. Each tool has advantages and limitations, and both are used to give planners optimal battlefield evaluation and visualization.

The DTSS is a set of automation equipment consisting of a powerful CPU, a 24" or 36" roll/drum scanner and several 36" color plotters, although the actual amounts and numbers of equipment on hand will vary between units. The system is generally mounted on a HMMWV, 5-ton, FMTV or other mobile platform. Until recently, terrain teams were only present at the division and corps levels and provided support to their command group and MSCs, so the DTSS was only available at the division level or higher. However, under the Force XXI restructuring initiatives, there is now a DTSS suite and a four-person terrain detachment with each maneuver brigade in the digital corps.

The DTSS is invaluable when units are preparing to enter an area of operations. It is a powerful tool that can create extremely precise products that evaluate all relevant considerations: terrain, weather, soils, hydrology, vegetation, and other factors. It can create products such as soil analysis and vegetation overlays and a MCOO. These products are usually made well before a unit enters a particular AO. The advantage of the DTSS is that all the input data and output products are digital and can be stored, sent, printed, or later manipulated to fit any particular need. The system also has a limited rapid reproduction capability so that products can be made and printed while in theater. More leaders need to realize the capabilities of this system and use its products in support of the continuous Military Decision-Making Process/Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (MDMP/IPB) processes.

Terrain teams normally produce a general suite of products for each mission to support the MDMP. These include a MCOO, separate specialized cross-country mobility, hydrology, lines of communication, elevation/slope tint and soils products. These products are often distributed down to the brigade S-2 in hardcopy format, although local distribution SOP may vary. These products are intended for use by all BOSs; all planners need to know these products exist and ensure they have access to them as soon as they are available.

In addition to this general set of products, teams and detachments can provide more detailed and customized products, depending on the situation and request. For more information on terrain teams and their products, see FM 3-34.230, Topographic Operations, Chapter 3, and Appendices B and F.

There are several different programs directly available to the unit-level planner to conduct terrain analysis tasks, but the most commonly used and available is TerraBase II. TerraBase II displays terrain in 3D perspective views and conducts relief-based analysis. Many types of imagery and digital maps can be draped over a 3D relief of the terrain to provide a very useful representation of the terrain features.

TerraBase II is a freeware program created to support units at the brigade level and below. It is an easy-to-use terrain evaluation tool usable on low-end PCs. The program provides planners from any BOS the ability to create the specific products important to the ground soldier, such as lines of sight, weapons fans and image maps. The Engineer School currently uses TerraBase in engineer officer training, to support the expectation of maneuver commanders that the engineer is the terrain expert.

The program uses National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) data, United States Geological Survey (USGS) data and many other types of data, including satellite imagery.

The main functions planners use are the weapons fan/range circle and line-of-sight tools. Some additional analysis functions include slope and elevation analyses, terrain categorization, and oblique and perspective views. The program also creates "movies" showing a rotating panoramic view from a specified location, or "fly-throughs" over the terrain using user-identified viewpoint information. The program is limited in that it does not consider the effects of vegetation, hydrology or weather, so the planner must always evaluate the validity and utility of the TerraBase II products based on these unassessed criteria.

Planners can download versions 3.0, 4.0, and 5.0 of the program, training documents including videos on how to execute functions, and a Microsoft Word tutorial from the Internet (www.wood.army.mil/tvc). Version 3.0 provided the basis for a multimedia CD-ROM TerraBase II tutorial package recently distributed by the U.S. Army Engineer School to each active duty, USAR and ARNG engineer battalion, brigade and group, to each of the tactical branch schools and to the CTCs (see this website: http://www.wood.army.mil/Tact/TACT/Terrain%20Visualization%20CD.htm).

The intent is to provide the field a means to self-train on the program using the package plus any locally reproduced copies of the package. The downloaded programs come with very little digital data, but the tutorial package includes digital elevation, map and imagery data for common military training areas, such as NTC, JRTC and CMTC, plus data for other areas of interest. The CD-ROM is currently given to each student at the engineer basic, advanced and pre-command courses, and once annually to engineer students at CGSC.

The program can display high-resolution imagery, including 1-meter resolution products from NIMA, the USGS or commercial sources. The program displays GeoTIFF images created using high-resolution (1m) color MrSID (Multiresolution Seamless Image Database) imagery. Planners can request this imagery for Fort Irwin, CA, Fort Polk, LA, and Fort Leonard Wood, MO, and use it to create image files usable in TerraBase II. This imagery allows the user to combine the tactical analysis tools of TerraBase with satellite imagery that commanders and staffs often find easier to interpret and more useful than digital map data. Other program uses include, but are not limited to:

  • Planning direct fire on/from proposed battle positions.
  • Re-transmission position planning.
  • Confirming visibility to objectives/NAIs/TAIs.
  • Estimating slope along routes for resupply vehicles and others.
  • Delineation of air avenues of approach.
  • Identifying optimal locations for LZs/DZs/base camps.
  • Placing OPs for optimal viewing and concealed movement.
  • Placing artillery pieces on low-slope areas.
  • Identifying potential ambush sites.
  • Conducting 3D movement/mission rehearsals.

TerraBase is free and easy to learn, and anyone in the force can use and apply TerraBase and its products to their missions. However, it is important to know that much of the digital image, map and elevation data used is "Limited Distribution" and only DOD military and approved civilian personnel are authorized to use the data.

The planner must make or request TerraBase II/terrain team products before, during and after the mission. Products received before the mission assist in planning. Products made or received during the mission assist in course correction and mission flexibility. Products made after the mission assist in BDA, analysis of the effectiveness of the maneuver and the breach, and augment after-actions/lessons learned records.

Products

There are three basic types of topographic or terrain visualization products with which the planner needs to be familiar: standard, nonstandard and TerraBase II products.

Standard products are hardcopy or softcopy items which are mass-produced for the DOD and are available through the supply system using an NSN. These include hardcopy or digital data such as maps, digital imagery, elevation data, and other feature data. The hardcopy products are normally paper, while digital products are normally on CD-ROMs.

Nonstandard products also include hardcopy and softcopy items, but they are not mass-produced. Terrain teams create these products using the DTSS and they are tailored to support specific operations. These products graphically illustrate the latest information about an area and serve as tactical decision aids (TDAs). A TDA is a product used to assist planners and commanders in making decisions about operations based on the effects of terrain and weather. An example is a cross-country mobility model illustrating the speed at which a mechanized brigade can move off-road. A day-old satellite image with military grid lines and a legend is much more useful than a 35-year old map.

Some other TDAs planners could use include Terrain Category (TerCat) and elevation tint products, which BOSs, such as Field Artillery and Air Defense Artillery, often use. Planners can use TerCat products to identify low-slope areas from which artillery pieces can fire, while elevation tints are used to identify air AAs. A sample package of nonstandard TDA products created for an operation could include the items listed below; the full range of products is listed in FM 3-34.230, Appendix B:

  • Observation and fields of fire.
  • Concealment.
  • MCOO.
  • Key terrain.
  • Avenues of approach.
  • LOC - roads, bridges, tunnels, sharp curves, steep grades.
  • Hydrology - depth, width, velocity, bottom material, bank height, ford sites.
  • Facilities - natural resources, manufacturing facilities.
  • Image map (may be combined with facilities and key terrain).
  • Elevation tint, placed over maps or imagery.
  • LZ/DZ.

The third type of product is the TerraBase product created at the unit level. This is simply any product created using any function of TerraBase which is then used for tactical terrain visualization, evaluation and decisionmaking.

A U.S. Army Engineer School TTP tool for identifying and collating all the various products necessary or desired for the terrain planner is called the Terrain Mission Folder (TMF) (mentioned in both FM 3-34.2 and FM 3-34.230). This product is a folder or collection of terrain/weather data necessary to support the planner in the decisionmaking process. The TMF is a set of mission-specific topographic products that is focused on a 10km x 10km area of operations, and is created in advance of the operation to support the IPB process. It may include:

  • Standard products, either hardcopy or digital.
  • Nonstandard products created by a terrain team.
  • TerraBase II products specifically created for the operation.
  • Intelligence and weather reports.
  • Graphics from the Engineer planner.
  • Photographs.
  • Any other data deemed important to the planner.

The table below summarizes the different types of products a planner might choose to have in a TMF for the missions listed in the table. The list is not all-inclusive but is intended to illustrate the common products available to the planner. It is recommended that the planner create the TerraBase products on an image background or a map background.

Type of FolderEngineer MissionStandard ProductsNonstandard/Terrain
Team Products
TerraBase Products
Breaching OperationsMobility1:50K TLM
DTED
Enemy Templ.
MCOO
Aerial Photo/UAV
Soils Overlay
Imagery
Weather Forecast
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Perspective View
Terrain Category
Line of Sight
Image Map
River-Crossing OperationsMobility1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
Bridge Reconnaissance
Ford Reconnaissance
Climatology
DTED
MCOO
Hydrology Overlay
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Lines of Communication
Weather Forecast
Aerial Photo/Imagery
Contour Map
Slope Map
Terrain Category
Weapons Fans
Line of Sight
Oblique View
Image Map
TF Defensive PositionsSurvivability Counter-Mob1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
MCOO
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Aerial Photo/Imagery
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Line of Sight
Perspective View
Elevation Tint
Image Map
Oblique View
Terrain Category
Obstacle EmplacementSurvivability
Counter-Mob
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
MCOO
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Hydrology Overlay
Weather Forecast
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Line of Sight
Perspective View
Elevation Tint
Image Map
Oblique View
Terrain Category
Base Camp SelectionSurvivability
Counter-Mob
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
City Graphics
MCOO
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Aerial Photo/Imagery
MOUT Study
Lines of Communication
Weather Forecast
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Image Map
Perspective View
Elevation Tint
Reflectance Tint
Oblique View
Terrain Category
Assembly Area AnalysisSurvivability
Mobility
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
City Graphics
MCOO
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Aerial Photo/Imagery
MOUT Study
Lines of Communication
Weather Forecast
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Image Map
Perspective View
Elevation Tint
Reflectance Tint
Oblique View
Terrain Category
Engagement Area AnalysisMobility
Counter/Mob
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
MCOO
Soils Overlay
Vegetation Overlay
Weather Forecast
Lines of Communication
Weapons Fans
Line of Sight
Perspective View
Terrain Category
Flythrough
Image Map
Slope Map
Reconnaissance
Missions
Mobility
Counter-Mob
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
City Graphics
Reconnaissance Rpts
MCOO
Lines of Communication
Aerial Photo/UAV
Imagery
Hydrology Overlay
Weather Forecast
Elevation Tint
Slope Map
Line of Sight
Slopes/Distances
Perspective View
Flythrough
Image Map
Terrain Category
Objective/Enemy
Positions Analysis
Mobility
Counter-Mob
1:50K TLM
DTED
Enemy Templ.
City Graphic
MCOO
Aerial Photo/UAV
Soils Overlay
Imagery
MOUT Study
Weapons Fans
Slope Map
Perspective View
Terrain Category
Line of Sight
Oblique View
Image Map
Terrain Category
Mobility Corridors
(Avenues of Approach)
Mobility
Counter-Mob
1:50K TLM
1:250K JOG
En/Fr Templ.
DTED
City Graphics
Reconnaissance Rpts
MCOO
Lines of Communication
Aerial Photo/UAV
Imagery
Hydrology Overlay
Weather Forecast
Elevation Tint
Slope Map
Line of Sight
Slopes/Distances
Perspective View
Flythrough
Image Map
Terrain Category

Table 1. Terrain Mission Folder Descriptions.

Figure 4 below is a TerraBase II representation of the terrain in the Live-Fire area at NTC shown in a reflectance view, with weapons fans and range circles on the east side of the area. The rays from the center of the weapons fan indicate visible areas or lines of visibility; areas with no rays are not visible from the center and, therefore, cannot be hit with direct fire. The range circles are user-specified, and can indicate maximum effective range, minimum effective range, or whatever the planner desires to show to illustrate the tactical point. Note that each of the weapons fans has significant gaps in direct-fire coverage.

Depiction of NTC weapons fan/range circle product

Figure 4. NTC Weapons Fan/Range Circle product. Image is a TerraBase II ver 3.0 reflectance view of DTED 1 elevation data from the Live-Fire Defense area at NTC. Surrounding the sample BPs in the east are west-facing weapons fans and 360oweapon-range circles.

Example Scenario

The intent of the terrain analysis tasks, tools and products described thus far is to give the planner guidelines on how to make the best assessments and recommendations of the situational template and maneuver plan, culminating with success at the POB and POP. The example that follows uses an area at the NTC to illustrate these points.

Scenario: You are a task force planner supporting a mission to attack and seize an objective defended by a task-organized mechanized infantry company (BMPs and tanks). The situational template indicates three platoon BPs (see CGSC Student Text ST 100-7 for further details). Enemy weapons can range out to 4000 meters, and there will be complex obstacles (wire, mine fields and tank ditches). You are trying to find the best ways to attack in zone against this entrenched defense. You must ensure the movement to and through the reduction area makes the best use of the terrain. For the purpose of this exercise, you will create and use TerraBase products only. Review the summary of scenario conditions below for more details on the tactical situation.

TemperatureHigh in the mid 90s; low in the mid 60s.
PrecipitationNone expected; none in the last 96 hours.
WindMoving southwest to northeast at 20 kph.
TerrainAn open valley, approximately 4 km across and 10 km deep, with high ground on the north, south and to the west (straight ahead).
EnemyTask-organized mechanized infantry company (BMPs and tanks).
FriendlyA mechanized task force in the Limited Conversion Division XXI (LCD 21) organization, (two mechanized infantry companies, one tank company, one engineer company and typical FS assets); the engineer is the breach force commander.

Table 2. Summary of Scenario Tactical Considerations.

Template Analysis. The engineer and S-2 planners have created an initial situational template (Figure 5), and the planners have produced an initial COA maneuver graphic (Figure 6). The planners' next steps are to attempt to procure the latest reconnaissance information or aerial/satellite imagery to precisely pin down the locations of the positions, and to create TerraBase II products to show the fields of fire from the positions, the ranges of the weapons, and the potential effects of the terrain.

Depiction of situational template overlaid on an image map of the scenario defense area at NTC

Figure 5. Situational template overlaid on an image map of the scenario defense area at NTC. Graphic represents templated enemy positions and obstacles, Drinkwater Lake and a phase line for reference. Image map created in TerraBase II, ver 3.0, using MrSID high-resolution (1-meter) color imagery.

Depiction of the image map of the scenario area

Figure 6. Image map of the scenario area showing the templated enemy positions, obstacles and the maneuver COA graphics. Image map created in TerraBase II, ver 3.0, using MrSID high-resolution (1-meter) color imagery.

The terrain is the major factor determining the SITTEMP. The enemy defense takes advantage of the long valley by creating an elongated kill sack which the attacker can choose to drive directly into or try to avoid by slowly moving along the valley walls. The BPs are arranged at the back wall of the valley allowing for CATK or retreat.

To create the best TerraBase products, the planner or product creator should have the latest available digital data that covers the terrain. The weapons fan function, combined with the range circle function, best serve the purpose behind creating the TerraBase II products. If planners wish to conduct more detailed analyses, LOS products between specific points on the ground can more precisely determine deadspace/visibility.

Figures 7, 8 and 9 show weapons fan/range circle plots from each of the three enemy platoon positions. Each figure shows two plots; the upper plot shows a weapons fan with minimal deadspace and the lower plot shows a fan with more deadspace (the worst and best possibilities for the attacker). The weapons fans extend out to 4,000 meters from each position. Along with the weapons fans are range circles drawn at distances of 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 meters from each position. The weapons fans graphically represent what the enemy can see and cannot see from the BPs, thereby identifying areas they can fire into and areas they cannot (deadspace). The range circles allow the planner to estimate the locations where friendly vehicles enter the maximum effective ranges of the various enemy weapon systems.

Each product is simply a tool to assist the planner in the terrain and weather analysis and integration processes. The SITTEMP plus good recent intelligence provides the enemy disposition, which is determined to be essentially doctrinal and as shown in Figure 5. These TerraBase products were made using high-resolution image maps of the terrain which have the potential to show great detail. These images cover a large area on the ground and, although the planner can pick out details, the images do not show their full potential. On images such as these, the planner can zoom in to such a degree that fine details, such as individual boulders, shrubs and trees, become visible.


Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from north position (least deadspace)

Figure 7. Depiction of the scenario area in TerraBase II illustrating the weapons fans from the north position with the least (upper) and most (lower) deadspace.

Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from north position (most deadspace)

Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from central position (least deadspace)

Figure 8. Depiction of the scenario area in TerraBase II illustrating the weapons fans from the central position with the least (upper) and most (lower) deadspace.

Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from central position (most deadspace)

Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from south position (least deadspace)

Figure 9. Depiction of the scenario area in TerraBase II illustrating the weapons fans from the south position with the least (upper) and most (lower) deadspace.

Depiction of scenario area in TerraBase II showing weapons fans from central position (most deadspace)

Figure 10 shows all of the weapons fans from Figures 7, 8 and 9, and shows the direct fire coverage of the six sample positions. It is difficult to see in the image, but the top SBF position (SBF 1) is vulnerable to direct fire from four vehicle positions (one in the top, one in the bottom and two in the center OBJ), while the bottom SBF position (SBF 2) is only vulnerable to fire from two positions (one in the top and one in the bottom OBJ).

Depiction of the scenario area in TerraBase II illustrating all six weapons fans and their degree of coverage of the SBF positions and AAs

Figure 10. Depiction of the scenario area in TerraBase II illustrating all six weapons fans and their degree of coverage of the SBF positions and AAs. Although it is difficult to see, the bottom SBF is covered by only two positions (one in the top and bottom OBJ); the top SBF is covered by four positions (one from the top and bottom OBJs and two from the center OBJ).

The weapons fan/range circle plots shown above, as well as others created but not shown here, indicate that there is incomplete interlocking direct fire from the enemy positions onto potential approach routes, SBF and/or ABF positions, the obstacle systems, and, therefore, many potential breach sites. The enemy will position their vehicles so that they make maximum use of the terrain for cover and concealment and allow for overlapping fire, but the terrain will not provide for fully interlocking fires for a significant area in the south and for some smaller areas in the north.

Maneuver Analysis. After analyzing the SITTEMP using intelligence data and TerraBase plots, and determining the probable locations of vehicles and/or deadspace in and around the BPs, the planner should determine the best routes for movement up to and through the breach.

The sources for this analysis are the image maps, any reconnaissance information, and TerraBase II products. The planner already has most of these from the first analysis; the remaining element is another TerraBase II product called a Terrain Category (TerCat).

The image map used in Figures 5 and 6 shows that the terrain is rocky along the valley walls and is smoother on the floor of the valley. Intervisibility will be generally good on the valley floor, especially from local areas of high ground. Intervisibility along the valley edges will be considerably poorer because of the broken terrain.

The TerraBase weapons fans show that not only is there a significant lack of interlocking fire because of deadspace but also that the southernmost AA is out of weapons range from some locations in the north BP. The fans also show that SBF-2 and the potential breach sites in the south are less visible than SBF-1 and the potential breach sites in the north. These factors plus the enhanced cover and concealment in the broken southern terrain make the south AA a good potential avenue of exploitation.

The other TerraBase II product which can be useful is the TerCat. Figure 11 is a TerCat image of the terrain showing bands of elevation. The numerical labels on the image indicate ground elevation in meters above sea level. The light gray band in the center indicates ground with elevation between 900 and 1,000 meters; the dark gray band surrounding it shows elevations from 1,000-1,100 meters; the next, nearly white band indicates elevations from 1,100-1,200 meters; the small patch of medium gray on the left side of the image is between 1,200 and 1,300 meters of elevation.

Figure 11. TerraBase II Terrain Category classification overlay of the same AO overlain with graphics. TerCat shows elevations of 900-1,000, 1,000-1,100, 1,100-1,200 and 1,200-1,300 meters absolute elevation.

The TerCat product (plus what the image maps and SITTEMP show) allows the planner to reach direct and indirect conclusions. One direct conclusion is that the southernmost enemy position is higher than the other two, and thus, can likely see farther than the others. Another is that because of the elevation differential and the northeast-blowing wind, an obscuration mission begun in the southwest will cover the entire obstacle frontage. A third is that the slope increases significantly along the north and south valley walls, and that the valley floor is generally flat and wide open. The north AA runs generally down the center of the valley floor while the southern routes are on higher ground. This indicates much better visibility from the higher ground in the southern AA to the lower areas in the center of the valley than from the lower areas to the higher ground in the south.

A significant indirect conclusion reached from the TerCat and the terrain features seen in the image map is that the terrain is likely to be rockier and harder in the north and south near the valley walls (1,000+m elevation), and is likely sandier and softer in the center (900-1,000m elevation). The implication is that movement in the center will be generally easier and faster, but that the valley walls may provide more cover and concealment. Planners must ensure the operation's risk analysis addresses each concern.

Breach Analysis. After examining the SITTEMP and identifying the optimal routes up to the breach site, planners must ensure selection of the optimal location along the complex obstacle to conduct a breach.

A large amount of work in the process of deciding where to breach from a terrain and weather perspective is already complete. The template and maneuver analyses already conducted provide essentially all the data needed for this example. These assets consist of the SITTEMP, image maps, confirmed and updated R&S data, and the TerraBase weapons fan, range circle and TerCat products.

The SITTEMP shows the arrangement of the obstacles. In this scenario, the planner received intelligence and same-day imagery that that confirmed the template. The TerraBase products showed areas of deadspace and lack of interlocking fire coverage in the south, indicating that SBF 2 and the main attack AA Axis Blue are the better choices. The TerCat and image map indicated rocky terrain in the far south usable for cover and concealment, also indicating the south route is the preferred. This terrain is also nearing the rocky wall, indicating that enemy survivability effort will be difficult. These factors all indicate that the recommended location for a breach is in the southern half of the enemy defense where SBF 2 can provide supporting fire.

Selecting the exact location to breach depends on the results of analyses, such as the ones above, plus a review of soil data, obstacle intelligence, and the terrain and weather. The planner has already identified that the breach will occur along the southern half of the system, so the breach will occur in a location supportable by SBF 2. The depth of the obstacle is important as well: breaching a single layer of wire/mine field is faster, easier and preferable to breaching multiple obstacle layers regardless of type. Microanalysis of the deadspace indicated in the weapons fans and the obstacle depth results in one optimum location in the south, located at grid coordinate 346253 (Figure 12). This point on the obstacle is in an area with a considerable amount of deadspace, and involves only one obstacle layer (a wire/minefield) that friendly forces must breach.

Image map of the scenario area showing templated enemy positions, maneuver COA graphics, and the proposed point of breach

Figure 12. Image map of the scenario area showing templated enemy positions, maneuver COA graphics, and the proposed point of breach.

Unit planners now know the "who" (who will breach), "what" (a breach), "where" (the grid coordinate of the breach site) and the "why (why breach at that grid)." What is not yet resolved is the "when" (when to breach), and the "how" (the method used in the breach).

The "when" is twofold - when the commander wants to breach is dependent on whether he wishes a day or night breach and other mission constraints is the first part. The second part of "when" is doctrinal - when the appropriate BOSs have accomplished the suppression and obscuration missions (SOSR-A; FM 3-34.2).

The decision on "how" depends on the equipment and time available, and on the characteristics of the terrain and weather. The weather data indicate dry conditions, so weather is not a concern. The condition of the ground at the proposed breach location is a significant consideration. The earlier conclusions reached about the terrain from the TerCat and the image map indicate that the terrain is rockier at the edges of the valley and softer in the center. This indicates that the method of breach will vary depending on the location of the breach itself. Breaches in the softer center using plows will likely be successful, whereas they will likely fail in the rockier areas along the valley edges. Here the MICLIC will be the preferred method of breach and the roller is the preferred proofing asset. In this case, as the breach will happen in an area of higher ground relatively near the valley walls, the ground is likely to be rocky and the planner should recommend the MICLIC as the primary breach method.

Scenario Summary

The results of the exercise (Table 3) are that the planners identified AA Blue as the optimal route for the movement up to the objective and SBF 2 as the better position, pinpointed the best location for the breach, and identified the optimal method by which to execute the breach. This type of holistic analysis, considering all factors, especially the terrain and weather, is vital in successful movement and breach execution. Remember that the failure to plan and execute all of the fundamentals of breach operations (SOSR-A) gives a high probability of mission failure.

Data on Hand or GatheredTerraBase Products CreatedConclusions of AnalysisFinal Recommendations
Template AnalysisImage map
Weather data
R&S data
Weapons fans
Range circles
  • The enemy template is doctrinal; there is constricting terrain in the north; the south and west provide open kill sacks along the valley floor and a CATK or retrograde avenue.
  • There is considerable deadspace on the south AA and SBF-2.
  • Weapons' effective ranges are plotted on the ground.
  • Incomplete interlocking fire on obstacles.
  • Original SITTEMP confirmed.
  • Enemy template weaknesses identified.
  • Template AnalysisImage map.
    Weather data.
    R&S data.
    Weapons fans.
    Range circles.
    Terrain category.
  • The terrain along the valley walls is rocky and sloping; the terrain on the valley floor is smooth and flat.
  • Mobility and intervisibility are good in the valley floor, poor along the walls.
  • Cover and concealment are poor in the valley floor, good along the walls.
  • There is considerable deadspace on the south AA and SBF-2.
  • Weapons in north BP cannot range the south AA.
  • High terrain in the south allows good visibility to the south, degraded visibility from north to south.
  • South AA and SBF-2 are the preferred options.
    Breach AnalysisImage map.
    Weather data.
    R&S data.
    Weapons fans.
    Range circles.
    Terrain category.
  • SITTEMP confirmed.
  • Wind moves southwest to northeast.
  • There is deadspace and a lack of interlocking fires on the south AA and SBF-2.
  • The obstacle system is one layer deep in places.
  • Rocky terrain in the south can limit breaching with plow.
  • Obscuration should occur to the south and west of the breach.
  • The breach should occur in the southern half of the obstacle, at grid 346253.
  • Primary breach method should be MICLIC; plow is secondary method.
  • Table 3. Summary of Scenario Evaluation and Conclusions.

    Training

    Knowledge of the process of terrain, weather and situational analysis and how to leverage the various terrain tools, organizations and products is key to the planner's ability to make the correct recommendation to the commander. Therefore, staff planners must ensure they and their units receive training across the full spectrum of the terrain and weather integration process. The training should occur at home station, and should focus on several areas of interest. This home-station training should include:

    • Periodic refreshers on the MDMP and IPB processes, with special focus on terrain analysis. Training should always include a full review and integration of terrain tools, products and area evaluations.

    • Unit- or individual-level training on the TerraBase II program, including practical exercises on selected areas of interest. This allows the exercise products to remain at the unit for potential later use during deployments/field training. Where and when possible, each product should be field-tested for validity and this knowledge incorporated into future products.

    • The planner should request that the terrain team warrant officer (OIC) brief the unit and demonstrate/show the products the team can provide the planners, when and how the planner should request them and when each product is likely to be available during the planning process. It is important to use a sample of the actual products during this training.

    • Staff-exercise coordination should be a part of all training and exercises to ensure information and product flow does not stop at any level or echelon but makes it down to the bottom, user level. The staff-exercise should also ensure each BOS planner incorporates his specialty into the process.

    Conclusion

    Staff planners who realize the importance of terrain analysis and are equipped with the proper tools are key in planning for successful breaching operations. If they are skilled at their tasks, they can fully determine the limitations and possibilities inherent in the area of operations, and determine the best site to conduct a breach. In this manner, the attack is indeed directed toward areas where the enemy is weakest and where the terrain favors us the most.

    Chapter 2:  D-180 Training Plan
    Table of Contents
    Chapter 4:  Setting the Conditions for the Breach



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