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Street Smart: Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield for Urban Operations

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From the beginning of the history of conflict, gathering information about ones foe and using it against him has been a critical precept for success in war. Having superior knowledge about the terrain and weather is also a well-accepted criterion for achieving victory in battle. The armed forces of the United States have long understood these prescriptions and have amassed an array of technologies, techniques, analytic methods, and talented personnel to ensure intelligence superiority. The emergence of new cities and the expansion of established urban hubs have challenged this intelligence superiority in many ways. Buildings and infrastructure neutralize U.S. technological advantage by stifling electronic intelligence capabilities. Urban construction imposes extreme burdens on knowing the terrain, vastly increasing the amount of information to be considered. Buildings alter maneuver routes, change unit type and weapons use considerations, and hide personnel and equipment. Urban infrastructure, which includes utilities and public works, can impose severe restrictions on unit operations if the infrastructure is required to remain operable during the conduct of military activities. Residents of an urban area complicate situational awareness and threat identification by populating the operational area with thousands and thousands of actors who engage in constantly changing activities, and who have a variety of interests and intentions. Knowing what groups exist in an urban area, what relationships exist between them, and how each population group will respond to an activity is critical to operational success but often difficult to decipher. The combination of the increased number of people, urban construction, and urban infrastructure also hampers knowing the enemy.

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  • Military Intelligence
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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