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Determining battlefield effects in an urban environment: MOUT terrain analysis.

The increased population and accelerated growth of cities have made the problems of combat in built-up areas an urgent requirement for the U.S. Army. This type of combat cannot be avoided.

--FM 90-10-1 (1)

Military operations in Panama, Somalia, Kuwait, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq demonstrate the current and future requirements for U.S. forces to be able to operate effectively in an urban environment; the need for an urban warfare capability will not diminish in the future. Operations in an urban environment will present unique and complex challenges for all of our Battlefield Operating Systems (BOSs). The increasing focus on stability operations and support operations--to include Peacekeeping Operations, Combating Terrorism, Noncombatant Evacuations, Nation Assistance, Civil Disturbance Operations, Humanitarian Assistance, etc.--merely reinforces that more attention must be given to operations in an urban environment. Intelligence doctrine must address these needs.

The most recent version of FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, dated 8 July 1994, added a chapter to address the various considerations of the IPB process when conducting stability and support operations. The number of this type of operation has increased, and the Army increasingly conducts these operations in an urban environment.

The current FM 34-130, Chapter 6, IPB for Operations Other than War, does not adequately address the focus of the IPB process in the urban environment. The previous version of FM 34-130 (May 1989) had Appendix B, IPB in the Urban Battle, which addressed in detail the special considerations for conducting the IPB process in an urban environment. The current FM 90-10-1, An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas, has a chapter on Urban Analysis and an appendix on Urban Building Analysis that contains some of the material that was in the 1989 version of FM 34-130. While this is a good source of doctrinal information, unit S2s should not need to go to an infantry manual to find doctrine on the IPB process.

Doctrine Note: Although the Infantry Center and School promulgates this manual, in fact the Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca wrote those intelligence annexes and appendixes, not just for FM 90-10-1 but also for FM 3-06, Urban Operations. A Special Text (ST) on Intelligence Support to Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) is emerging; however, the Doctrine Division's subject matter expert recently left, and most of our military personnel are deployed in support of on-going operations. As time and resources permit, work will continue.

While operations in an urban environment affect all steps of the IPB process, the focus of this article is on terrain analysis as part of Step 2, Describe the Battlefield Effects. To succeed in battle in built-up areas, commanders and leaders at all levels must understand the nature of the environment. To assist commanders, S2s must analyze the effects of urban terrain on enemy forces, unaligned elements, and friendly forces.

Terrain analysis in an urban environment differs from that of open terrain in many respects. The analysis of the five military aspects of terrain--obstacles, avenues of approach, key terrain, observation and fields of fire, concealment and cover (OAKOC)--still applies. This analysis, however, must be in the context of urban battlefield characteristics. A standard modified combined obstacles overlay (MCOO) developed from a military map and done in accordance with the current FM 34-130 will not be of much use to leaders at the company level and below.

Standard military maps do not have the detail required to allow S2s to conduct a thorough analysis of urban terrain. Many standard military maps are old and do not reflect the more recent buildings, streets, and sometimes even significant urban growth. In addition, standard maps do not show the subsurface aspects of the urban environment: sewers, subways, and underground water systems. While these military maps show key public buildings and areas such as hospitals, clinics, stadiums, and parks, they do not clearly identify the water facilities, communication facilities, fuel supply, storage facilities, and temporary conditions (e.g., construction sites).

The S2's analysis of these unique aspects of urban terrain is crucial to the commanders' appreciation of the nature of this terrain.

[] Sewer and subway systems can provide infiltration routes.

[] Elevated railways and mass transit routes provide mobility on which the urban residents depend; if operations destroy or disable these facilities, congestion will occur.

[] Utilities such as electrical, gas, or water facilities may be key targets.

[] While forces cannot attack hospitals and clinics when not under use for military purposes, they may be a source of medical support for all factions and elements.

[] Stadiums, parks, and sports fields may serve as holding areas, enemy prisoner of war (EPW) facilities, or landing and pickup zones.

[] Construction sites and other commercial operations may be a source of Class IV (2) materials.

S2s must obtain maps or other imagery that contains this information so that they can analyze it and provide that product to maneuver commanders.

The Army must somewhat alter analysis of the five military aspects of terrain (OAKOC) to consider fully the unique aspects of urban terrain. More than any other environment, the urban battlefield is dynamic. Depending on the street layout patterns, people can create or improvise manmade obstacles quickly to block narrow streets or these obstacles may not be a significant factor where streets are wider. Natural obstacles arguably pose less of a problem in urban terrain than in open terrain. Rubble caused by direct or indirect fire may impede both mounted and dismounted movement. In relatively rare circumstances, rubble may actually aid movement, such as when a building collapses across a canal, thereby providing access to the other side. These are the types of factors that make the urban environment dynamic.

S2s must analyze avenues of approach from all dimensions--air, ground, and subsurface--which generally requires separate overlays depicting air, ground, and subsurface avenues of approach. From these overlays, analysts should be able to determine what size forces they can support, and advise the commander appropriately. This analysis should also allow the commander and the remainder of the staff to answer cerrain vital questions like:

[] Are the avenues of approach linked?

[] If so, where?

[] What is the possible impact on enemy or friendly courses of action (COAs)?

Key terrain will vary based on the composition of the urban area and the nature of the threat. If the enemy prefers using snipers, then buildings providing good observation and fields of fire may be key terrain; if the enemy prefers strongpoints, then highly reinforced buildings (e.g., banks) that dominate intersections may become key terrain, and so forth.

Observation and fields of fire will be much more restrictive in an urban environment and the use of photos and imagery will be invaluable. The ability of the S2 and his section to do photographic and imagery analysis will be a significant factor in the quality and quantity of information they are able to provide.

Analysis of cover and concealment is also vital to success on the urban battlefield. Building characteristics, masonry, wood, brick, and even glass can all provide varying degrees of protection from observation, as well as the effects of weapons and munitions.

S2s, especially at battalion level, must be able to provide analysis of individual buildings to support subordinate maneuver commanders. It is not enough to describe the general characteristics of an urban area. Maneuver commanders need individual building analysis to generate effective COAs in the planning process. The number of floors and rooms in a building are essential to determining the proper allocation of forces. A staff will not be able to allocate adequate resources to seize an objective or to isolate a series of buildings if the S2 does not provide this level of detail.

Subordinate maneuver commanders and leaders must do their own analysis to refine the S2's products. However, S2s must understand the initial level of detail required from the intelligence staff section. Figure 3 is a building analysis matrix that a brigade or battalion S2 could use as a collection tool or as a means of information management and dissemination.


The S2 assigns buildings a means of identification. This could be a number or letter or a combination. For each building the S2 section provides the information for the remaining columns. S2s can obtain the information from the intelligence section's photographic analysis, reconnaissance reports, or satellite or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) imagery, as well as soldiers' reports.

The type of construction helps to determine the level of protection the building will provide and possible weapons effects. This is important to commanders as it will drive decisions on the types of weapons and breaching techniques the adversary may employ.

The number of floors in a building will likewise influence the resources required. These resources include the number of clearing teams, quantity of ammunition, time required to clear, or the size of the force necessary to secure a particular floor or building. The number of rooms per floor is also important for the same reasons. While it is no easy task to determine the number of rooms and floors without building blueprints or having been in the building, the number of apertures and their locations provide a reasonable indicator. Information from various sources including imagery or scout reports can help determine the number of apertures.

Stairwells can become chokepoints and S2s must consider them in planning. The same is also true for basements and attics. There are indicators, such as windows at street level and gables in roofs, that can assist the S2 in this analysis.

The number of apertures and their locations assist in determining observation and fields of fire. If the apertures on the northern side of a particular building provide the best observation and fields of fire, it indicates that either entry will require suppression of these apertures, or that entry should be from a different direction.

The S2 section can use the final block of the matrix for any additional information. This might include outside fire escapes, distances between buildings, etc.

Maneuver brigades, battalion commanders, and their subordinate commanders need S2s who can apply the IPB process in an urban fight. The current FM 34-130 does not specifically address this critical requirement but the process is the same. As the Army updates and develops manuals and special texts, this will provide maneuver brigade and battalion S2s with a doctrinal source to reference for training their sections.

Doctrine Note: Emerging doctrine, to include production of STs, is already aggressively pursuing many of the issues raised by the author, and we are making efforts of incorporate existing, combat-tested methodologies. An example taken from (Draft) ST 2-01.103, Intelligence Support to Urban Operations, follows:

There is, however, no standardized Army protocol to assist unit leaders (all echelons) in identifying key structural elements. Rather than enforce a position that may not allow the necessary flexibility, policy allows mission leaders and organizations to develop their own formats. This may include the Ranger Numbering standing operating procedure (SOP) or the Marine Corps Sniper Guide. Without being unduly restrictive, the objective continues to be standardization only at the mission letter. Figure 1 is provided only as an example of structural labeling although it does reflect all critical points. Figure 2 outlines procedures that may be followed and explains structural labeling.

Figure 2. Details of Structural Labeling.

Step Concern Details

1 Structural Structural shapes will be identified as
 Shape square, rectangular, T-shaped, L-shaped,
 U-shaped, H-shaped, X-shaped, and irregular.

 Square Designed so that all four sides are of equal
 size. Such designs are normally found in
 inner-city construction, smaller family
 dwellings, and in utility company maintenance

 Rectangle Designed so that opposite sides are of equal
 size. The most commonly used shape in building

 T-shaped A modification of a square or rectangle with a
 wing extending from the center of the front or
 back of the building.

 L-shaped A modification of a square or rectangle with a
 wing extending from one end or the other of
 the front or back of the building. A common
 design for family dwellings.

 U-shaped A modification of a rectangle with a wing
 extending from each end of the front or back
 of the building. A modification of a U-shape
 is the multiple U, with more than two wings
 extending from the front or back. The U-shape
 is common to larger official buildings and

 H-shaped A modification of a rectangle with a wing
 extending from each end to the front and back.
 A modification of the H-shaped is the multiple
 H. The multiple H has more than two wings
 extending to the front and back.

 X-shaped A center common area with T-shaped wings
 extending from the center of each side.
 X-shaped designs are found in some apartment

 Irregular Buildings that do not fit traditional designs
 such as the Pentagon, religious structures,
 sports arenas, and permanent fortifications.

2 Structural Face Once the shape has been determined, the
 Designation structure's main entrance is located and
 designated "white." If none of the building
 faces are identifiable as the main one, the
 commander will designate a face as white. Once
 done, the other faces will be color-coded in a
 clockwise manner with the white face serving
 as the base. While facing the white face,
 progressive faces will be designated as red,
 black (rear face), and green. For irregularly
 shaped structures the white face will be
 designated and the remaining faces
 color-coded. Any report addressing this
 structure will include the direction the sides
 take relative to each other. An example of
 color-coding and shape follows. EXAMPLE:
 "Irregular, white face one, white face two
 right, red face, black face, green face." This
 describes a pentagon-shaped irregular design.

3 Measurement Once the structural faces have been
 of Side Lengths color-coded the shape, face color, and
 dimensions of the respective sides will be
 given. For irregularly shaped structures the
 same procedure is used with the addition of
 direction the sides take relative to each
 other. Send measurements as feet, length first
 followed by height. EXAMPLE: "Rectangle, red
 face 20 by 30."

4 Numbering Floors will be numbered from "1" beginning
 of Floors with the ground floor. (Basements and other
 subterranean areas are addressed later.)
 Roofs, floors, attics, porches, balconies,
 chimneys, stairs, fire escapes, and other
 substructures will not be numbered but
 designated as what they are. Once the
 structural shape, face, and measurements are
 reported, then report using face, floor, and
 any additional information. EXAMPLE: "Black
 face, three, patio and fire escape."

5 Numbering Windows will be designated "window," doors as
 of Windows "door," and all other openings as "opening."
 or Openings Designate from left to right as "Alpha, Bravo,
 Charlie, etc." EXAMPLE: "Window Alpha";
 "Opening Delta."

6 Numbering Sub-basements, tunnels, or vaults may be dug
 of Basements deep into the earth and provided multiple
 and Other subterranean levels. Such structures will be
 Subterranean designated one at a time and given an alpha
 Levels designation (first level = Alpha, second level
 = Bravo, third level = Charlie). Additionally,
 the type of structure or equipment on a given
 level must be identified as in the example
 below. EXAMPLE: A basement will be designated
 basement. "Sub-basement 'Alpha' parking
 garage." "Tunnel 'Charlie' gas pipeline."
 "Vault 'Delta' with electrical conduit
 tunnel." (Reflects a vault on the 4th level
 below the street level and that it has
 electrical conduits or lines running through


(1.) FM 90-10-1, An Infantry man's Guide to Combat in Built-up Areas.

(2.) Army Class of Supply IV includes construction and barrier material.

Lieutenant Colonel Al Ahuja currently serves as the Deputy G3 for 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and assumes command of 3-502 IN in July. His past assignments include company command in the 82d Airborne Division and 5th Ranger Training Battalion, Small Group Instructor and Doctrine Writer at the Infantry School, Battalion and Brigade S3 in the 3d Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), and Chief of Military Training at the U.S. Military Academy. His military education includes the Infantry Officer's Basic and Advanced Courses and Command and General Staff College. Readers may contact the author via E-mail at (work) or (home) and telephonically at (270) 798-6103.
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Title Annotation:Military Operations in Urban Terrain
Author:Ahuja, Alfonso J.
Publication:Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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