Intelligence Planning in Military Operations


Military operations require extensive intelligence support in order to be effective. In the past, Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB; US Army, 1994) was the most common intelligence tool used to gain an understanding of the landscape.

Given that IPB is most effective with a conventional warfare and the previous generation of military doctrine (AirLand Battle; Skinner, 1988) changes were necessary to make it more effective. These changes developed into FM3-06 Urban Operations (US Army, 2006; its latest release) and eventually into the Intelligence Support to Planning Procedure explained below and derived from MCWP Intelligence Operations 2-1 (US Marine Corps, 2003) which is based on principles of counterinsurgency (COIN).

The generic intelligence model that is explained below contains the following items:

  • Mission Analysis
  • Course of Action (COA) Development
  • Course of Action (COA) Analysis
  • Task Units and Re-Evaluate

Mission Analysis

Mission analysis is the first step in the intelligence preparation process .As it is defied in MCWP 2-1, the goals of mission analysis include developing an understanding of the environment (military, social, cultural, geographic) and the presence and nature of threats, defining what is possible and most desirable to accomplish operationally, and shaping the initial intelligence requirements.

Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB) is required for this process to determine the enemy’s center of gravity (“sources of moral or physical strength, power or resistance that are critical to an enemy’s ability to resist”), strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, as a key element of IPB is focused on geography, advantages and challenges based on the environment are identified.

Course of Action (COA) Development

The next step is the development of one or more courses of action that guide the commander’s plans. Intelligence supports continuously updates the view of the battlespace (the elements defined in IPB) in order to allow courses of action to be based on the most up-to-date information.

COA Analysis

After the various courses of action have been developed, the intelligence analyst assists by ensuring that all available information on the enemy motivations, tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) and other elements are factored into the analysis.

Additionally, intelligence staff often function as the enemy in wargaming scenarios because they have the most detailed, up-to-date knowledge on the enemy and are able to integrate that into training scenarios to ensure troops are as effective as possible.

Task Units and Re-Evaluate

During this phase, the final plans based on the courses of action are decided upon. The mission begins, and the move from planning to execution begins.


Skinner, D.W. (1988) Airland Battle Doctrine. Defense Technical Information Center. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

US Army. (1994) FM 34-130 Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

US Army. (2006) FM3-06 Urban Operations. Retrieved on August 24, 2016 from

US Marine Corps. (2003) MCWP 2-1 Intelligence Operations. Retrieved on August 23, 2016 from

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2017), "Intelligence Planning in Military Operations," retrieved on December 9, 2022 from

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