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Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield
With a Purpose

LTC Thomas M. Smith
Senior Intelligence Trainer, Operations Group, NTC
MAJ David G. Puppolo
G2 Plans Officer, Operations Group, NTC


Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) is a complex process. Many great S-2s rotate through the National Training Center (NTC) armed with all the tools that FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, gives them, produce the required doctrinal products, provide comprehensive, technically correct briefings, yet routinely fail to give their commanders the "right stuff' they need to win. Preparing and briefing the products that we see in our doctrinal manuals often fails to communicate what the S-2 wants everyone to understand. This doesn't mean more products and more work, but better products to help the commander see the enemy. This article provides S-2s some IPB tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to help their commanders succeed on the battlefield.


The doctrinal tenets of IPB are fundamentally sound; however, we often have a hard time explaining why we do IPB -- and that seems to be the root of most S-2s' problems at the NTC. FM 34-130 states that we do IPB "to support staff estimates and military decisionmaking. Applying the IPB process helps the commander selectively apply and maximize his combat power at critical points in time and space on the battlefield." While this is all true, there are very simple but critical pieces that are missing, both in doctrine and in the conduct of the IPB process at the NTC -- let's call them visualization and communication.

We do IPB because it is the primary means by which a commander develops that vision in his mind of how an operation will unfold. S-2s must do two things to make this happen:

1. They must help to create the vision.

2. They must communicate it to the commander (and staff) so he can do the same for his soldiers.

Familiar experts in the vision business are television announcers at NFL football games, who use very effective visual aids to create and communicate a clear vision or concept. Look at what slow motion, instant replay, zoom in/out, reverse angle, and John Madden's "Chalkboard" have done to help the viewer really see and understand a critical play.

The movie Gettysburg shows a great example of understanding and communicating the vision. General Longstreet explains his vision of how the Battle at Cemetery Ridge will unfold. He is about to launch an attack that he knows will fail. How does he know it? He understands the effects of terrain on his formations as his soldiers climb the Cemetery Ridge, he knows that obstacles will slow his formations, he knows how enemy fires will affect him as he approaches enemy defensive positions, and he understands his own troops. The following passage from Michael Shaara's 1974 historical novel, The Killer Angels, details Longstreet's vision:

"Longstreet looked up the long rise. He could begin to see it. When the troops came out of the woods, the artillery would open up. Long-range artillery, percussion and solid shot, every gun on the hill. The guns to the right, on the Rocky Hill, would enfilade the line. The troops would be under fire with more than a mile to walk. And so they would go. A few hundred yards out, still in the open field, they would come within range of skirmish, aimed rifles. Losses would steadily increase. When they reached the road, they would be slowed by the fence there, and the formation, if it still held, would begin to come apart. Then they would be in range of the rifles on the crest. When they crossed the road, they would begin to take canister fire and thousands of balls of shrapnel wiping huge holes in the lines. As they got closer, there would be double canister. If they reached the wall without breaking, there would not be many left. It was a mathematical equation."

Because Longstreet understood all those things about the terrain and the enemy, he was able to see a fairly accurate picture of the battle before it occurred. S-2s must do the same for their commander by using simple, clear techniques (many not found in any FM) to create and communicate the IPB vision.

IPB Products Must:

  • Assist the commander's visualization process

  • Help drive COA development

  • Help refine friendly COAs

  • Help in analysis/synchronization of COA (wargame)

  • Help program flexibility into our plan

  • Drive reconnaissance planning

  • Assist decisionmaking during execution

  • Assist subordinate units in their visualization process

To Do This, IPB Products Should:

  • Address enemy commander's expected mission and intent

  • Describe how the enemy sees us

  • Offer our commander an array of capabilities

  • Portray an uncooperative enemy

  • Describe how the enemy will fight and maneuver, including all his combat multipliers, not just how and where he will move

  • Analyze the enemy to the appropriate level of detail (changes with audience)

  • Be as user friendly as possible

The IPB Steps:

The S-2s of the world are probably reasonably comfortable with the following four steps to the IPB process:

1. Define the battlefield environment

2. Describe the battlefield effects

3. Evaluate the threat

4. Determine enemy courses of action

The Products:

The typical IPB products in the S-2's arsenal are:

  • MCOO
  • Event template

Will these products create and communicate a simple, clear vision of the battlefield for a commander? Most will answer with a resounding NO! These products, as typically produced, don't come close to portraying the dynamic nature in which an enemy fights, nor do they effectively illustrate the significance of terrain. That's why we have written this article: to add tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to the menu. Incidentally, there's no manual out there that will do it for us. TTP originates from good ideas on the job and from the pure necessity to take doctrine one step further. Our intimacy with IPB normally occurs during the military decisionmaking process (MDMP), and involves products and requirements for each piece of the MDMP.


IPB products and requirements surface during the following phases of the MDMP:

  • Mission analysis
  • COA development
  • Wargaming
  • OPORD issue/refinement
  • Rehearsals

Additionally, IPB is a continuous process that does not stop with publication of an order. As we collect intelligence, our vision of the battlefield may change, and we must be able to effectively communicate the results of gathered intelligence.

Each phase is different, and the products, requirements, and presentations for each phase should be different. S-2s are not effective when we stand up for a mission analysis or OPORD brief in front of a 1:50,000 map with a sheet of paper in hand and read and drone on superficially. For example, "Sir, let me orient you to the terrain. There's good to excellent observation in the west part of the central corridor with poor cover and concealment due to the flat ground and lack of vegetation all year round...." Does anyone really stay awake?

An S-2 will never paint a good picture of a future battle with a narrative, a MCOO, and a busy, dusty (or muddy), acetate SITEMP. So how do you paint a picture that the commander remembers, and at the same time keep the rest of your audience informed and in the ball game? Let's start with the mission analysis brief. By this time, the S-2 must lay out an entire cycle of IPB.

The Mission Analysis Brief:

The S-2 can present a successful mission analysis brief by considering the following points, each of which deserves some discussion:

  • Terrain: LD to objective (Illuminate effects of terrain)

  • The enemy: from big to small (including timeline)

  • Enemy commander's intent/purpose

  • Enemy Course-of-Action (ECOA) development

  • Snapshot ECOA sketches

  • What we know (targeting implications)

  • What we don't know (recon implications)

  • Recommended PIR

  • Tentative reconnaissance plan

Terrain: LD to Objective

First of all, don't brief a MCOO. The MCOO is a generic S-2 tool that helps the S-2 get a general "feel" for the terrain, but it doesn't do much for the commander and his staff. S-2s should take their commanders on a terrain "tour" from the LD all the way to the objective. Illuminate the effects of critical terrain (IV lines, covered/concealed avenues of approach) and the significance of key and decisive terrain (for example, Alpha/Bravo Pass -- the only exit leading to the enemy division commander's immediate objective).

Figure 1 shows an effective way to do this. On a 1:50,000 map, use inserts at points or areas to illuminate critical terrain.

Figure 1


  • The insert at the top of the map shows a constricted pass with no obvious terrain that will limit movement. A photo, however, confirms that the pass consists of large boulders that make off-road vehicle movement impossible.

  • The insert to the middle part of the map is a Terrabase perspective shot from an observer's location on Hill 605 to the objective. We can even draw our templated enemy directly on such a product.

  • At the southern part of the map, the S-2 can show a 5,300-m concealed approach. It can easily be enhanced with some mini-cam footage or a photo for a 3-D effect.

  • At the western edge, Terrabase shows a significant IV line issue.

  • In the north, the distance between the IV line and our objective is about 4,000m. At that distance, enemy long-range AT fires can range us once we crest the IV line, and we will be unable to return effective direct fire. In the south, that distance is only about 1,000m, so our tanks can engage the enemy immediately upon cresting the IV line.

These are just a few examples of how to brief the terrain more effectively. Each of these areas will pass the "so what" test that we must apply to information we brief.

Even if we have access to a computer to help us analyze and illuminate the effects of terrain, we can and should break out the 1:24,000 scale maps to supplement our standard 1:50,000 scale maps. Not only do they offer over twice the resolution of the horizontal dimension of the battlefield, they also give us a much better appreciation of the vertical dimension of the terrain (by having a 10-meter contour interval as opposed to the 20-meter contour interval on a 1:50,000 scale map).

Consider the consequences of using a 1:50,000 scale map to analyze terrain: given its 20-meter contour interval, a terrain feature or features slightly taller than a five-story building might go unnoticed during mission analysis!

Figure 2 shows another great visual effect from using Terrabase products at key places. The program can generate shots that place us in the enemy's seat to see how the enemy sees us or how we expect to see him. It's a simulated 3-D product right in front of the commander.

Figure 2

Looking to the future, Force XXI technology offers some powerful terrain tools for S-2s. Both the MCS and ASAS include fairly user-friendly software allowing S-2s to produce high resolution line-of-sight and perspective displays.

There's no limit to what an S-2 can do to take his commander on a terrain tour from LD to objective. Initial reaction to all this may be "Well, I only have an hour and a half or so before the mission analysis brief. How can I possibly do all this?" The answer is that you can't.

You have to do it before you deploy, and that's key.

The Enemy: From Big to Small

Once the S-2 briefs the critical terrain, he should introduce the enemy, from big to small. This part doesn't need a lot of explaining. A neat line and block chart as shown in Figure 3 will do the job. This is IPB step 3 and takes only minutes for one of the shop analysts to produce.

Figure 3

Here we can also produce a graphic timeline (Figure 4) for the commander. This will assist the commander in developing his own COAs and associated decisions.

Figure 4

The Enemy Commander's Intent/Purpose

What does the enemy commander want to do? What's the scope and purpose of his operation? How will he accomplish his mission? How does he think we're going to fight? S-2s must do a little homework for this one, because it requires some thought. If we immediately dive into templating the enemy on a 1:50,000 overlay without first considering his intent or purpose, we may incorrectly assess his intended actions. We're pretty good at fitting the enemy doctrinal templates onto terrain, but sometimes miss the key step in assessing the enemy's mission and purpose.


Let's consider the S-2 who dives right into the templating business without looking at the big picture, and note how he may get into trouble by doing so:

Our division gave us an overlay which shows one enemy MRB defending in our zone of attack, within an area about five kilometers wide and two kilometers deep, between high ground to the north and south.

The S-2 then develops two ECOAs (Figure 5) which array three MRCs far forward of the passes (ECOA 1) and another, defending both Passes 1 and 2 (ECOA 2). At first look, these two ECOAs appear valid and are well-tied to the terrain. The S-2 chose to defend with the enemy's main effort in Pass 2 because it is larger and less restricted than Pass 1, and requires more combat power. Figure 6, however, is the enemy's actual plan, which shows that he has used his entire MRB to defend Pass 1.

Figure 5

Figure 6

What went wrong with our ECOA development thought process?

The answer: We ignored what our division told us in their intelligence annex -- that the MRR commander's intent was to retain control of the town to the east of the passes.

The best way for the MRB commander to accomplish his higher commander's intent is to defend Pass 1. Defending Pass 2 will not assist in accomplishing the MRR or MRB commanders' missions (Figure 7).

Figure 7


Before S-2s submerge themselves into templating ECOA, they must first ensure they understand enemy commander's purpose and how it's tied into his higher headquarters' plan. Remember, S-2s must develop ECOA with the enemy commander's intent firmly in mind. We recommend considering intent at three levels -- same, one, and two levels up.

Consider another example, at a lower echelon, of the motorized rifle regiment (MRR) meeting battle, where forces will converge and the enemy is looking to find you. Each enemy component has a specific task and purpose. For instance, the CRPs roll out from the advance guard, looking for the best piece of ground from which to fight. If it's not one IV line (and his S-2 has told his commander this), it's the next. He has this programmed into his plan -- If I can't grab this piece of terrain, I'll grab the next one. The CRPs are going to find you. If the blue force moves one task force up, one task force back, the CRP will look for the lead task force. He finds it and reports back to the FSE. The FSE hunts it down and bites hard, holds on, and calls on the main body of the advance guard. The advance guard hits the lead task force from a flank, and then passes the report back to the MRR main body motorized rifle battalions (MRBs). These MRBs will also attack from a flank.

Another tool to assist S-2s develop ECOA is to step into the enemy commander's shoes and determine how he sees our fight. S-2s normally don't consider this. We do not view the threat's perception of us when we're trying to determine his course of action. Call it "reverse IPB." It's in our doctrine, but we don't do it very well.

EXAMPLE: We just received an OPORD from higher which tells us to defend against an enemy attack. It's time to do our mission analysis brief. The S-2 has the floor, and the BCT commander asks, "OK Two, what's the bad guy going to do?" The S-2 lays out three ECOAs, but doesn't consider what his own commander is thinking; what his concept is on how he's going to array his defense given the terrain he must defend.

What S-2s should do in this case, is pull the commander or S-3 aside and ask him to array his company teams in sector. Now, the S-2 can begin planning using the following logic: "If this is how my BCT will array its forces to defend, then this is how I, the enemy commander, might attack to penetrate the weakness in this defense." The S-2 will probably be able to come up with an accurate set of enemy options, especially if the enemy's reconnaissance gets a good read on the true weakness in the defense.

Enemy Course-of-Action Development

S-2s often depict a single (or perhaps two) enemy course(s) of action (ECOA), usually due to time constraints, SOP, or because we believe the enemy can only fight one way. The enemy, however, will use decision points and quickly change his mind at different points in a battle, before or even after LD. S-2s must help the commander and staff plan for these changes by considering all feasible enemy options (our doctrine states this repeatedly), because it is here we begin building flexibility into our commander's plan.

It is NOT okay to wait until after the commander gives his guidance or after we have developed the friendly COAs to finish ECOA development.

If the staff develops friendly COAs without a complete set of ECOAs, the friendly COAs will be invalid when the S-2 catches up and presents additional ECOA. Remember that all the ECOAs produced at mission analysis are an initial assessment because we have not developed our friendly COA, which should eliminate or reduce the likelihood of some ECOAs. Keep this thought in mind; we pick it back up in the COA development discussion.

We recommend developing ECOA from big to small. Use cartoon sketches to show a broad picture of all feasible ECOAs. Use sketches to show how the enemy will maneuver and fight. Although the S-2 can realistically develop a full set (four, five, or more) of broad ECOA sketches, he may not have the time to develop as many detailed ECOA. That's okay. He's provided his commander with two or three well-developed ECOAs, and maybe two or three more broad ECOAs that give him a pretty good idea on how those fights might unfold, and help build more flexibility into his plan.

We advocate using sketches or cartoons because we do not recommend briefing acetate SITEMPs. They are extremely difficult to see, and, therefore, don't do a good job in communicating the vision. This is not to say that acetate SITEMPs should not be produced for the mission analysis brief. They should be made available if the commander wants to see the details of the terrain and its relation to the enemy. Additionally, SITEMPs are necessary tools to use during COA development and wargaming.

Figures 8 through 11 show a way of using a combination of text and graphics to communicate several feasible ECOAs quickly and clearly.

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 11

The Story Board Tool

Figure 12 shows a tool that shows broad multiple enemy courses of action in terms of critical events during an MRR attack. We call it a story board. Use a piece of poster board about 36" x 48." Cover it with easel paper. Paste similar map sketches showing the necessary terrain -- then acetate it. Label enemy critical events across the top of the chart. For example: a forward detachment, truck-inserted infantry, air-inserted infantry, special munitions, and the MRR main effort. Label the numbered ECOA along the side. Each box within a column allows the S-2 to sketch out different enemy options for each particular event. Each element should include composition, task and purpose.

Figure 12

Every option indicates something key about the enemy's plan. Once execution begins, it allows the S-2 to quickly deny any ECOAs by crossing out options and confirming the ECOAs the enemy adopted in a sort of "connect the dots" technique. A benefit of this tool is that when the S-2 presents this simple, clear picture of all enemy options to the commander during the mission analysis brief, he's planted the seed for developing a flexible friendly COA. This method also provides an opportunity to see all enemy options at once, without swapping acetate SITEMPs back and forth onto a 1:50,000 map.

Another benefit of this tool is that it drives initial reconnaissance planning. For example, if the S-2 shows two options for air-inserted infantry, he can immediately recommend focusing ADA reconnaissance to find and then shoot down the helicopters carrying the infantry. We've focused chemical reconnaissance on possible locations for PChem strikes, and our engineer reconnaissance on likely FASCAM sites.


Not yet. The story board effectively depicts an ECOA, but in broad terms only. It doesn't do a very good job in showing how the enemy will look, for example, at H+1 or in the close fight as he attempts to suppress, breach and penetrate our defense. Additionally, the story board may not show all the combat multipliers the enemy will employ during the fight.

But S-2s usually stop here. We do a good job at showing how the enemy will move in formation, for example in a meeting battle, but don't do a very good job in showing how the enemy will fight us. We stop here because we're usually not very well-versed in maneuver. If that's the case, why not ask one of our S-3 battle captains for some help? How would he fight the battle if he was the enemy?

Snapshot ECOA Sketches

S-2s must provide the commander (and FM 34-130 states this) "the method by which the threat will employ his assets, such as dispositions, location of main effort, the scheme of maneuver, and how it will be supported." An effective way to do this is to create "snapshots" of how he expects the enemy to look at critical places and times on the battlefield. Figures 13 through 15 show a technique to display snapshots at critical events of an MRR in the close fight. They show a full range of enemy combat multipliers and the details required to see the enemy's scheme of maneuver.

Figure 13

Figure 14

Figure 15

Figure 16 illustrates another way to show sequential snapshots of an MRB in a defense, but is not quite as detailed. This may occur when the S-2 is short on time. However, the sketches still provide a simple, clear vision of how the fight will unfold. This sketch starts in the upper left hand corner and progresses clockwise. It shows four critical events of the battle and is self-explanatory. As in terrain analysis, we recommend the use of both computer terrain products and 1:24,000 scale maps to assist in templating. Understanding that there are a lot of things S-2s may include in an ECOA, it's worthwhile to show a recommended by-mission planning menu. The level of detail is based on time available and, of course, what your commander wants.

Figure 16


  • Enemy objectives

  • Recon routes/OPs/IEW sites

  • Critical IV lines highlighted

  • Firing lines

  • Direct fire range fans which include terrain effects

  • Formations and deployment lines

  • Scheme of maneuver for each element at critical points on the battlefield (ex: CRP, FSE, AGMB, main body, forward detachment, infantry, AT, attack helo, CAS, arty, ADA)

  • Artillery/rocket target boxes and range fans

  • Artillery and ADA position areas

  • ADA coverage

  • Attack helicopter routes, BPs, and range fans

  • LZs

  • CAS routes

  • Situational obstacles, FASCAM

  • Chemical targets

  • Smoke targets

  • Support, breach, and assault forces in the close fight


  • Recon routes/OPs/IEW sites

  • Ambush positions

  • CSOPs/counter recon forces

  • Battle positions/alternate BPs

  • Infantry strongpoints

  • MRB/MRR reserves with counterattack routes and timelines

  • Engagement areas

  • Direct fire range fans which include terrain effects

  • NVG range fans

  • Firing lines

  • Artillery/rocket target boxes and range fans

  • Artillery and ADA position areas

  • ADA coverage

  • Attack helicopter routes, BPs, and range fans

  • CAS routes

  • Obstacles, FASCAM

  • Chemical targets

  • Smoke targets

Some ECOA Considerations

Deploy Armed with ECOAs. S-2s can provide a 90-percent solution to ECOAs prior to deploying anywhere. Provided we know the general area of operations, S-2s can develop possible combinations of ECOAs for every type of mission before deployment, file them systematically, and retrieve them as needed during mission analysis once deployed.

Most Likely ECOA = Least Likely?? S-2s should be aware that a most likely ECOA briefed during mission analysis may actually become the enemy's least likely option. Here's what can happen. During the mission analysis brief for a friendly defense in sector (enemy attack), the S-2 decides the enemy's most probable attack option is in the north part of the sector (Figure 17). The IPB process, as it should, then drives the development of a friendly COA and we build a defense with its main effort in the North. Enemy reconnaissance enters our sector and successfully penetrates our defense. The enemy reconnaissance sees the bulk of our engineer effort, especially the obstacle work, occurring in the north. It sees the bulk of our engineer effort, especially the obstacle work, occurring in the north. It reports the information, their S-2 assesses our main effort is north, and the enemy develops its plan to attack to penetrate our weakness in the south (Figure 18).

Figure 17

Figure 18

The enemy may have initially planned to attack north, but decided against it once his reconnaissance confirmed our strength there. This happens more frequently than not at the NTC, and may easily happen in combat. S-2s must consider this same scenario during mission analysis and illustrate all feasible enemy options to their commander so he can build flexibility into his own plan. S-2s should, therefore, address all feasible ECOA at the mission analysis brief to better prepare their commanders to deal with a multi-optioned enemy.

The Football Analogy. It's easy to see this concept in action during any football game. The (friendly) defense has already called its formation, based on what it expects the (enemy) offense to do, and sets itself in position while the offense receives the play in the huddle. The huddle breaks and as the quarterback (enemy reconnaissance) slowly moves into position, he checks the set of the defense -- where it's strong and weak. He sees the defense is strong on the right, in the very place he called the play to run his fullback. Does he go with the play (the ECOA) that he called in the huddle? Absolutely not. Instead, he calls an audible at the line of scrimmage and changes the play by adjusting the formation to run the fullback to the weak left side. Since the coaching staff has built flexibility into the defense, which has prepared for a full range of offensive options (a full set of ECOAs), it is ready to make necessary adjustments to deal with any offensive play.

The Field Of Dreams Syndrome. The above analogy surfaces a related issue, the "Field Of Dreams" syndrome -- "If he builds it, we will come." If you haven't seen the movie, this refers to a trap we sometimes let our staffs fall into. We'll plan a friendly COA for an attack against what the S-2 just told us will be the strongest part of the enemy defense. The problem here is that our planners do not allow IPB to drive the development of our own COA. The S-2 during the mission analysis brief tells us that his IPB suggests the enemy will defend with his main effort in the south. We develop a COA, ignoring what the S-2 just briefed, which plans to attack with the main effort in the south, right into the enemy's strength! Don't let this happen. Speak up S-2s!

What We Know (Targeting Implications)

So far we've discussed critical terrain and its significance, introduced a dynamic, thinking enemy, a full range of ECOA, and how we think the fight will unfold. As we're approaching the end of the mission analysis brief, it's critical the S-2 tells the commander what he knows so far. Figure 19 shows a tool we can use to illuminate things we know, and how it fits the template. For example, the Division G2 gave us a satellite photo, clearly showing a small piece of an MRC defense. The black outline represents the photo. The picture shows tanks and BMPs dug in, a wire obstacle, and a minefield. The photo doesn't show the entire defense, but the S-2 can tell the commander, "Sir, this is what we know (photo), and this is what we don't know (templated sketch). We can target these vehicles now." That information immediately goes into the FSO's plan. But what don't we know?

Figure 19

A Targeting Consideration

During the mission analysis process, S-2s rarely provide the FSO the information he needs to plan the concept of fires that he will recommend to the commander at the mission analysis brief. A most frequent example occurs when we defend against an attacking enemy, and want to destroy enemy armor as he moves in column through a target box.

S-2s should help the FSO do the initial battlefield calculus required to accomplish this difficult task. To ensure indirect fires destroy a desired number of moving vehicles, the enemy column must spend enough time moving through the target box. The S-2 calculates this time, for example, based on the projected speed and length of the total column. Once familiar with the steps, it only takes a few minutes.

PROBLEM: How long will it take an MRB Main Body in column to pass a given point on the ground if its speed is 20kmph?

MRB Main Body = 10 Tanks, 29 BMPs
Each Vehicle = 7m
Length of Vehicles end-to-end = (10+29) x 7m = 273m
Vehicle Spacing = 50m
Total Spaces = 38 spaces x 50m = 1900m
Total Column Length = 1900 + 273 = 2173m (or about 2km)

Time = Distance/Speed
= 2km/20kmph
= 0.1 hours
= 6 minutes

So, an MRB Main Body will take 6 minutes to pass a point (such as a target). The FSO can now calculate if that will be sufficient time to achieve the desired effect on the enemy.

What We Don't Know (Reconnaissance Implications)

We don't know anything about the southern piece of the defense. That's the job for our reconnaissance. "Sir, let's focus our reconnaissance plan in the south, go a bit lighter in the north since we know something up there, and maybe send a COLT or two north to call and adjust fires onto the known targets. Based on what we don't know, here are my recommended PIR."

Recommended PIR

We've taken the commander from terrain, to enemy, what we know and don't know, and now need to recommend the intelligence we think he needs to have to succeed with his plan -- the PIR. PIRs are often vague and unfocused.

EXAMPLE: Will the enemy use chemical munitions to support his attack? This is not a very difficult question to answer. The answer is most probably YES!

EXAMPLE: Will the enemy attack; if so, when, where, and in what strength? The answer to this one is YES, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, WHERE WE'RE THE WEAKEST, and WITH ABOUT 40 TANKS AND 100 BMP!

If we can answer PIR without conducting reconnaissance or requesting information from higher, the PIR is probably not adequate.

A way to avoid recommending meaningless PIR is to phrase PIR as a statement or demand, not a question. If the commander has a REQUIREMENT, why would he phrase it as a question? If you doubt it, read any commander's friendly force information requirements (FFIRs), and see if they're phrased as questions. Chances are that they're not. Consider the following "PIR equation" as a guide to assist you in formulating PIRs that meet the requirement of what a commander really needs to know:


If we look closely at these three areas and determine what it is that the commander must know, we can write more effective PIRs that are truly the priority intelligence requirements, and not merely lists of "nice-to-know" items. For example, the commander will always want to know how the enemy will maneuver to fight the fight.

Therefore, we believe a No. 1 PIR may be: Determine the enemy's COA.

This one PIR alone, if answered in terms of how the enemy will maneuver, will probably satisfy most of the commander's decision points that are triggered by an enemy action.

Perhaps the most common mistake S-2s make in recommending PIR is that they don't link them to their commander's decision points (DPs). Understanding that when the S-2 recommends initial PIR at the end of the mission analysis brief, no one yet knows the decision points. But the S-2 should be able to anticipate a few DPs (offensive and defensive DPs often repeat themselves), and come up with some meaningful PIR. An example of a DP that repeats itself when the enemy defends is: Shifting the main effort. The enemy criterion for this DP is when TF 1-1 has destroyed all but one enemy platoon in the enemy company-size battle position.

The PIR to help the commander make his decision to shift the main effort should be: Track enemy combat power in each battle position.

S-2s should ask their S-3s for a list of recurring DPs for each type mission. They will most certainly come up with several that can assist them in recommending initial PIR.

If we've done a good job of analyzing the terrain and enemy, especially what we don't know, we'll have a pretty good set of initial PIRs to recommend to the commander. Once we've done that, PIR must drive R&S planning. If they don't, they were an academic exercise in which we "checked the block" by establishing PIRs, and then filed them away with no further thought or contribution to the fight.

Remember the (PIR = DPs + HPTs + SPECIAL MUNITIONS) equation? As we progress through the MDMP and build a friendly COA that deals with all of our ECOA, our PIR may and probably should change. As we develop friendly DPs and HPTs, we need to examine whether or not our PIRs address the commander's need for the intelligence required to make each decision, kill the HPTs, and protect the force. If not, adjust the PIR.

Tentative Recon Concept

Now armed with what we know, don't know, and PIR, the S-2 can present a tentative reconnaissance concept. This should consist of at least a reconnaissance mission statement, task organization, timeline, necessary movement, time of reconnaissance OPORD, and a draft event template.

A Focusing Reconnaissance Consideration

We S-2s are constantly being told to "focus" our intelligence collection assets. In an attempt to do so, we've begun to over-focus by assigning more and more NAIs that are too small, and don't use our collectors to their fullest extent (specifically their ability to think).

EXAMPLE: In Figure 20, the S-2 has closely examined the terrain in sector and over-focused the collectors by employing a "measle sheet" NAI overlay. In the open and unvegetated terrain depicted, one properly sited observer can see nearly, if not all, NAIs in the larger enclosed area. If the S-2 really needs to know where the enemy goes as he moves between the large hill masses to the north and south, then that's what we need to tell our collectors to tell us -- and assign an NAI encompassing the larger box. Some collectors may still require additional focus, and may indeed look at only one of the smaller NAIs, but at least consider a collector's ability to think and accomplish your intent for his being where he is on the battlefield.

Figure 20

COA Development

The S-2, or his planner, must be involved in COA development. Although he has no product requirements, we must:

1. Ensure the friendly COAs initial array of forces makes sense against the ECOAs the S-2 developed during mission analysis.

2. Assist with the calculations involved in force ratio analysis. Specifically, he must ensure both sides use the same system of calculation. Unfortunately, the Army doesn't offer a definitive force ratio value for all of the world's combat systems. However, at brigade level, we should use the method that assigns values to individual systems, count them, and multiply the result. For example, if the enemy has 16 tanks that can affect the battle and the staff assigns a value of 1.4 to that type of tank, its force ratio value is 22.4.

As we develop friendly COA, we should be able to eliminate or at least reduce the likelihood of ECOA. Friendly actions, such as obstacle emplacement, friendly forces positioned in an economy of force role, or positioning of our reserve, can help (Figure 21).

Figure 21

This of course assumes we allow the enemy to see us. For example, if we position a company team in a narrow valley to keep the enemy from attacking there, he must see us for him to make the decision not to go there. Therefore, during friendly COA development, we must decide whether or not we want him to see us. We should consider this issue as we think about eliminating ECOAs. Once the S-2 eliminates all ECOAs possible, we can prioritize the remaining ECOAs on the likelihood of their occurrence.

The Wargame

The wargame is a very different event and requires a different type of participation by the S-2. The wargame audience is the brigade staff, who has recently heard the S-2's pitch at the mission analysis brief. What they haven't seen is this dynamic enemy in action and played against the friendly COA we just developed. The S-2 must take some tools with him to the wargame. We recommend the following:

  • Replication of the enemy's assets: small stickers, push pins, mini-models

  • 1:24,000 map


  • Snapshot ECOA sketches

  • Initial reconnaissance plan and event template

  • Terrabase products at critical points

  • Critical events list and timeline

  • An S-2 as the cunning, dynamic, and uncooperative enemy

The last bullet is probably the most important because the object of the wargame is no different from any other game -- and that's to win. An S-2 who rolls over and dies will do little to test the friendly COA. The S-2 must be able to show and explain what this stubborn enemy will do at critical events on the battlefield. For instance, a company of air-inserted infantry enters on the north flank of our defense the night before the fight. This is a key indictor that the enemy's main effort may be in the North. The S-2 can now post one of those snapshot sketches he showed during the mission analysis brief to illuminate in detail how the enemy infantry plans to unhinge the northern edge of our defense. The sketches are visible to the entire staff, and help everyone understand how the fight may unfold.

Terrabase products again become helpful in illuminating, for example, how an IV line 4500m to the front of a task force BP will mask attacking enemy lead elements as they maneuver north for an envelopment. Another shot may show a direct fire line-of-sight problem from the northernmost BP as the enemy attempts its envelopment from the north.

Note that any new enemy information gained since mission analysis will require introduction into the wargame. The staff must be prepared to relook COAs for feasibility. And, as in COA development, the wargame may, and probably will, refine our PIRs.


The OPORD brief has a different audience than the mission analysis brief and, therefore, requires a different presentation. Subordinate commanders have not yet seen any of the information the S-2 briefed during mission analysis, and they are looking for information tailored to their level.

Task force S-2s can't produce all the products that a brigade S-2 shop can. The brigade S-2 can make copies of some of the close fight sketches we talked about in ECOA development and hand them to the TF commanders. Give them any other products that you may have received -- for example, satellite or UAV photos, JSTARS products, or any new information gained from reconnaissance.

Finally, take the opportunity to sell the reconnaissance plan. Since the brigade commander is right there in the front row, the S-2 can add significance to the issue. "Gentlemen, I've told you what we know and don't know about the enemy, and I've given it my best shot. We've developed a solid reconnaissance plan, but I need your help to solve these unknowns." The brigade commander takes the cue and says, "Hey guys, this is really important stuff. I know our scouts are out right now looking, but we really must get this information. I need your help."

The Rehearsal

The S-2's next piece in the planning process is participation in the rehearsal. The TF commanders know the plan, have thought about it, have written their OPORD, and now everyone meets at the terrain model. The S-2 must ensure he takes the following actions at the rehearsal:

  • Discusses any new information gained since brigade issued the OPORD. What more do we know about the enemy? It may affect our maneuver and reconnaissance plan. Take the opportunity to update the audience with sketches that show adjustments to the enemy template based on the new information. Show any new known enemy locations on the sketches. Our newly adjusted template may require a refocusing of our reconnaissance effort. For example, a UAV photo shows a wire and mine obstacle with 11 holes located 1,000m to the rear of the obstacle, indicating an MRC-sized battle position. This photo is located about 1,000m west of an MRC we show on our template and will require a shift in one of our NAIs. We have observed instances during rehearsals in which critical enemy information received by the brigade TOC never got to the rehearsal site only meters away.

  • Propose changes to the reconnaissance plan that require us to redirect our effort to find the remaining pieces of the puzzle. Discuss new reconnaissance objectives and show the location of new NAIs.

  • As in the wargame, play a dynamic and uncooperative enemy.


So far, we've stepped through IPB, discussed how it's woven into the MDMP, and have provided TTP to help S-2s visualize and communicate the vision of how the enemy will fight to the commander and staff. Although doctrine tells us that IPB is a continuous process, we often let down at this point, spend minimal time passively monitoring execution of R&S, and wait for the intelligence to simply flow into our S-2 shop. Let's take a look at some intelligence issues that occur during the execution phase of an operation and some TTP to help resolve them, specifically:

  • Monitoring and execution of the R&S fight

  • What to do with the intelligence once we get it

  • Situation development

    • Tracking the Enemy

    • Labeling the Enemy

    • Predictive Analysis

Monitoring and Execution of the R&S Fight

As we stated earlier, many of us passively monitor the very operation that we know will definitely affect the accomplishment of our mission -- the R&S fight. All of the following flows from the fact that our R&S plan is PIR-driven, and that the PIRs are linked to those DPs, HPTs, and measures to protect the force that the commander believes are critical to his success.

If we have done the above, then someone (not a person, but a command post) must be in charge of the R&S effort to ensure its execution. Simply waiting for the intelligence to flow in will not satisfy the commander's PIRs. To begin with, sometimes subordinates either misunderstand instruction, or simply fail to execute their assigned tasks. If we're doing nothing but monitoring the radio for reports, we may not find this out until it's too late. We must understand our R&S plan, and the plans of our subordinates that work to fulfill tasking we assign. If we told a TF to have scouts LD at 0100, and be in position to observe and report at NAI 22 by 0400, then we ought to track the execution of that task. Additionally, we may need to adjust our plan at any time. If that scout is destroyed at 0115, are we going to do something about it? Will we ensure that a CASEVAC plan is being executed? Who will cover that NAI now? The CP in charge of the R&S effort must do more than actively monitor the R&S fight -- it has to be empowered to make changes to the plan. In the case above, he must have the authority, at any hour of the night, to task subordinate units with changes to the R&S plan.

Finally, we need to keep track of what intelligence we're collecting, and specifically, whether or not we have answered any of the PIR. If one of our primary purposes in the R&S plan is to answer PIR, then we need to actively track and assess this. If a PIR relating to NAI 22 has been satisfied before 0100, why send that scout in harm's way? Adjust the plan.

What To Do With The Intelligence

Once S-2s have intelligence in their hands, they must do something with it. First of all, we must decide whether it's important enough to do something with it. Is it a PIR? Is it an HPT? Is it a critical enemy event? Here are some examples in an enemy defense:

If We Find This:
Direct fire weapons locations/holes
We Should Do This:
  • Refine CAS target box, artillery targets / groups
  • Refine SITEMP
  • Begin maneuver
  • Begin bounding overwatch
  • Acquire/kill enemy
Composition, location, orientation, of obstacles, gaps, and bypasses
  • Define possible zone of penetration, points of breach
BDA defining strength/weakness
  • Make decisions (confirm/deny/revise the plan)
  • Penetrate south/north
Forces repositioning
  • Kill, suppress, avoid
  • Block, fix
Locate counterattack force
  • Adjust, redirect reconnaissance
  • Activate triggers and destroy/suppress with arty/CAS
Enemy PChem/NPChem, FASCAM
  • Avoid or prepare to eliminate
Enemy RAG/mortars
  • Counterfire to neutralize/destroy

This is also a good point to bring back our storyboard that we used in mission analysis to help us analyze and differentiate between the elements in each ECOA. As intelligence comes in to the S-2, we can use our storyboard to highlight and communicate how we see the battle unfolding. We also must use our SITEMPs, event template, and any ECOA sketches that we produced to constantly gauge our success or failure of R & S operations, and our confirmation or denial of ECOAs. For instance, if the enemy has air-inserted infantry into a given location, and we've correctly assessed the intent of that element, we should be able to look at our story board, and see which ECOA that the event indicates. If the location doesn't match our ECOA, it's a tip-off that we need to rethink the enemy's options.

Situation Development

Tracking the Enemy

Enemy combat strength tracked as an aggregate total does not do a great deal for the commander. It doesn't allow him to see where the enemy is weak or strong so he can make key decisions on the battlefield. The following two rules will help:

1. If the enemy attacks, track it by major formation, for example, FSE, AGMB, MRB No. 1, MRB No. 2, MRB No. 3, etc.

2. If he defends, track it "geographically" so the S-2 can see enemy weaknesses developing as they occur. For example, set up BDA charts to mirror the SITEMP. If the SITEMP shows the enemy defending with three MRCs abreast with a 3/8 (Tanks/BMPs) in each MRC, we should set up our BDA charts showing three MRCs abreast, with start strengths of 3/8 in each MRC. Draw and number each vehicle in each BP (Figure 22). As the fight progresses and we find that our SITEMP requires adjusting, make the same adjustment to the BDA chart. This is critical because it allows us to assess where our enemy may be weak or strong, and provides the commander an opportunity to make key decisions that may trigger key events.

Figure 22

Labeling the Enemy

S-2s should carefully label the enemy when tracking it, because as the fight develops, certain labels may become confusing. For example, during an enemy attack, a Trail MRB may be the first element to break through our defense, and is no longer a trail MRB. A better technique is to label it MRB No. 4. In an enemy MRB defense, what we labeled the Center MRC may become a meaningless term after an hour of repositioning and become the northern MRC. A better technique is to label it MRC No. 2. When the enemy is defending, our SITEMP may (and probably will) change during the battle. To communicate these changes effectively, we recommend passing the grids for the end points of enemy defensive positions, their orientation, and current strength. For example: MRC No. 1 from NK 123456 to NK 128473, oriented WNW, contains a 1/5.

Predictive Analysis

First of all, don't simply disseminate spot reports received. All too often, we see S-2s who get a great piece of information, and simply make sure that the commander and other S-2s have the information, and consider our job done. Things that may seem obvious to us may not be to our commander who is bouncing over the battlefield in his M113, or even worse, running from an enemy tank. We're paid to do the analysis for him, so let's go beyond reporting history. We're pretty good at telling him what has happened, and reasonably good at telling him what is happening, but need to work on telling him what will happen. It seems simplistic, and you may be saying to yourself, "Of course! Who wouldn't do that?" The answer is that most of us don't. It's not that we can't, but we simply don't. We need to discipline ourselves to ask ourselves what will happen based on every piece of information we receive. If we keep asking ourselves that question, and then informing the command of what we think will happen in the future, we will be a long way toward what we need to be providing to our commanders and staffs. Fifteen seconds of analysis on the command net on a regular basis will keep us focused on what our commanders need to fight and win.


IPB has come a long way since its adoption. FM 34-130 does a great job of laying out a lot of the "what-to's" that we've needed for a long time. Although it states why we do IPB, we think we're missing the larger point. It isn't just support to decisionmaking -- it's creating the vision of the terrain, weather, and how the enemy can fight, and the ability to communicate that information effectively. We believe the TTP discussed will help S-2s establish what's necessary to create the IPB vision, and to communicate it quickly and effectively to commanders and staffs.

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