Frame1.JPGIntelligence Preparation of the Battlefield

in a MOUT Environment

by Michael P. Ley

Throughout history, military planners have viewed cities as centers of gravity. Cities are population centers, transportation hubs, seats of government, industrial sites, communication networks, and important transportation nodes (e.g., highways, rail lines, river traffic). Recent forecasts based on population statistics and worldwide migration trends show the continued movement of people away from agrarian to industrialized societies. As the population migrates to urban areas, the military significance of cities is likely to grow proportionately.

Current tactical doctrine states that we conduct urban combat operations only when absolutely required. Doctrine recommends that we isolate and bypass built-up areas rather than risking a costly, time-consuming operation. Adherence to these precepts, however, is becoming increasingly difficult as the world develops more urban areas. To minimize collateral damage and comply with the rules of engagement, we cannot reduce an urban area to rubble and then bypass it. Military operations in urbanized terrain (MOUT) are even more difficult as part of a stability operation or support operation due to the importance of the local population to that operation.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield

Intelligence preparation of the battlefield (IPB) is a systematic, continuous process of analyzing the threat and environment. Foremost, its design will support the military decision-making process. The proper use of the IPB process helps commanders to selectively apply and maximize their combat power at critical points in time and space by determining the threat’s possible courses of action (COAs) (in order of likelihood), describing the environment their units are operating within, and explaining the effects of the environment will have on them.

IPB has other considerations such as—

As an important special environment for military operations, the next revision of FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield, will have a chapter on IPB in MOUT. We need your input to help develop doctrine and detailed procedures for this important topic. The intention of this article is to provoke dialogue and provide a framework in which to analyze the environment in a MOUT environment—from a major European city to a third world “shanty town.” However, this article will not provide a detailed description of IPB or change existing IPB methodology.

MOUT IPB: A Difficult Environment

With the exception of  large-scale amphibious assaults, MOUT may be the most complex of all military operations. While many believe MOUT is exclusive to larger cities, they may also be conducted in or adjacent to urban areas of all sizes. The intelligence analyst needs a method to quickly determine the crucial components of the MOUT environment, which will allow more time for detailed analysis later. Use of this “shortcut” places the types and details of the MOUT environ- ment at the forefront of the IPB effort and provides the supported commander with a quick environmental analysis.

The critical element necessary to perform adequate IPB in unique environments is the ability to understand, break down, and then draw conclusions about an unconventional environment and the threat. Therefore, it is critical to quickly analyze and present an accurate, detailed picture of the environment. The analyst must deal with complex characteristics of the urban environment and present concerns such as—

Because of the diversity of MOUT environments, many analysts have difficulty identifying a starting point in their analysis of the environment. The following framework offers a user-friendly process for analyzing the MOUT environment.

A Unique Analytical Framework

The MOUT environment framework (see Figure 1) is a tool designed to facilitate the analyst’s efforts in analyzing the components that comprise the MOUT environment; it is not a stand-alone tool. This framework was based on an initial analysis of MOUT doctrine found in FM 90-10, Military Operations in Urban Terrain, and FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield. The use of the framework allows the analyst to—

Step 1, General Urban Description. Define your area of interest (AI) in accordance with FM 34-130. Start your analysis by categorizing the urban area as a large city (population >100,00), a town or small city (3,000 to 100,00), a village (population <3,000), or a strip area (a built-up area connecting villages, towns, or cities). Then record any general data such as the exact population figures and whether the population is homogenous cohesive or fractional splintered.

Step 2, Building and Street Patterns. Subdivide the AI into the appropriate building and street patterns:
Type A: dense, random construction.

Type B: closed-orderly block.

Type C: dispersed residential area.

Type D: high-rise area.

Type E: industrial and transportation area.

Step 3, Lines of Communications. Identify all LOCs in the AI.


Step 4, Urban Patterns. The combination of built-up areas, LOCs, and natural terrain results in the formation of urban patterns that impact on operations. Subdivide the AI into the appropriate urban patterns.

The hub is the central built-up area and the foundation of any urban area. The satellite pattern is a common pattern with a hub and relatively dependent, dispersed, smaller built-up areas. LOCs tend to flow from the hub to the smaller urban areas normally in the form of farms, forests, or secondary roads. The network pattern is similar in appearance to the satellite pattern, but the network is vastly more complex and diverse. Unlike the satellite pattern, the network pattern is more self-sufficient and less supportive of each node, although a dominant hub may exist. A network’s major LOCs are more extensive than those in a satellite pattern and take a rectangular rather than convergent form. The linear pattern is the most frequent pattern resulting from stringing minor hubs along a confined natural terrain corridor such as an elongated valley. It can also result from one spoke of a satellite pattern or a connection between the hubs of a network pattern. The segment or pie slice pattern may occur as a subset of either the satellite or network patterns, or within a major hub. Splitting of an urban area by dominant natural features such as a river or by man-made features such as roads, railways, or canal characterizes the segment or slice pattern.

Step 5, Pattern Effects. Describe the pattern effects on both friendly and enemy forces. The building and street pattern and urban pattern may have one of three effects on a large military force (based on the type of friendly or enemy force): blocking, funnel-fan, or funnel effects.

In the blocking effect, the hub often has the effect of almost completely blocking an operation. The funnel-fan effect occurs when a hub is between terrain features unsuitable for the operation. Forces tend to funnel (and lose momentum) as they enter into the urban hub and fan back out when they reach the other side of the hub. In the third type of effect, the funnel effect will normally occur when forces encounter a linear pattern and forces cannot immediately fan out.

Step 6, Military Aspects of the Terrain. Analyze the military aspects of the terrain in accordance with FM 34-130. It discusses observation and fields of fire, concealment and cover, obstacles, key terrain, and avenues of approach (OCOKA).

Step 7, Mobility Corridors. Perform a detailed analysis of general mobility corridors and avenues of approach. Specify each corridor as either subterranean level, ground- level, building level, above ground  level (e.g., overpasses, elevated walk-ways), or air level.

Step 8, Other Significant Characteristics. Analyze the other significant characteristics of the environment as stated in FM 34-130. These characteristics can include current issues, the local historical perspective, weather, population demographics (e.g., ethnic and cultural groups, religious groups, language, literacy, age distribution), government and political or socioeconomic factors (e.g., roles of clans, tribes, organized crime, gangs), infrastructure (e.g., telecommunications, and electrical lines), and economic data.


When using the framework, the analyst must realize that these considerations are part of Step 2 of the IPB process: describe the battlefield environment. Analysis using this framework can usually finish well before the military decision-making process starts for the operation. The analysts must still complete steps 1 through 4 of the IPB process as described in FM 34-130. The framework provided should be seen as solely an “up front” analytical tool applied to the very specific demands of the MOUT environment.

The MOUT Environment Worksheet

As a tool to help analysts use the framework the MOUT environment worksheet (see Figure 2) allows the analysts to quickly capture (in text format) some of their analysis. Analysts also need to produce many graphic products to integrate their analyses of the environment with the other steps of IPB.


Analysis of the MOUT environment is a complex task even when working in less than  a major urban area. Use of this framework and worksheet checklist will greatly facilitate the IPB process by focusing analysts and helping them develop a quick but comprehensive picture of the environment. As we in the Doctrine Division grapple with this issue, we need your input. If you want to provide input on this topic feel free to contact Mr. Ley at commercial (520) 538-0979, DSN 879-0979, or via E-mail at Additionally, watch for the initial draft of FM 34-130 on our web page ( dlb.htm) this spring.

Mr. Mike Ley is currently a doctrine writer at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center. Mr. Ley retired from the Army in 1990. While on active duty, he served two tours as an military advisor in the Republic of Vietnam. He also served as a Polish linguist at Field Station Berlin. He was the Operations Officer for the 265th Army Security Agency (ASA) Company and was the S2 for 2/503d Infantry Battalion at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He also served as the Operational Test Officer, Intelligence and Security Board, and Independent Evaluator, Combat Developments Directorate, at Fort Huachuca. He was also the Collection Management Liaison Officer for the Third Republic of Korea (ROK) Army and later worked as a software test engineer on the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS) and on TRW’s Hunter UAV project. He is a graduate of Ohio University, Athens , with a degree in cartography. Mr. Ley is currently updating FM 34-3, Intelligence Analysis and Synthesis, and FM 34-130, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield.