Order of Battle, Part Three – Forward Observer Shop

Order of Battle, Part Three

(This article is Part Three in a series.  Here’s Part One and Part Two.)

As we bring this Order of Battle (OB) series to a close, it’s important to stress a few things.  Number one, this product may have to be periodically updated or reviewed.  We never want to be caught with obsolete information.  Number two, it’s important to get started.  Every little thing we do now will make tomorrow easier.  And number three, these nine components work for Army OB.  You may find that you need to add or remove a component; so do what works best for you.

7.  Combat Effectiveness

In order to judge the combat effectiveness, we have to know a good bit about the history of the unit.  We might utilize Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) sources to read about previous operations or engagements.  From a previous component, we would analyze their training in comparison with potential threats or defensive preparations.  If a unit has been preparing for a conventional war, they they will probably perform poorly in an unconventional war.  If they an adversary doesn’t train for dynamic entry and room clearing, then they may not be very good at it.  We can look at another component — logistics — and judge potential combat effectiveness if there’s limited re-supply.  We could do some analysis and, as an example, say that after the fourth day of operations, combat efficiency will decrease due to poor logistical supply trains.  We always want to provide predictive or actionable intelligence, and judging an adversary’s combat effectiveness is a good range to do that.


8.  Electronic Technical Data

In this section of the OB, we’ll want to provide information about communications and other technical equipment.  What frequencies does an adversary use to transmit?  What type of communications equipment is used?  What are the observed call signs?  Where are static communications posts?  What type of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) equipment is available (if any)?


9.  Miscellaneous Data

Finally, we arrive at a catch-all section.  Types of information we may include is that the adversary commander has a secret family or a drinking problem or gambling debt.  We might include information about previous attempts to reform or re-organize a unit or organization.  Maybe the current leader is not respected or poorly liked by his troops, or other morale information.  We’d include any pertinent data that could be good to know.


As stated in Part One, these nine components are a really great start to identifying the structure and quality of a military or police unit, or other organization.  Use these as a guideline to building your own OB products.

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Thanks for the series, certainly helps to logically map the human terrain. From what I found thru open source I predict in my amateur fashion that the LEOs could put nearly a battalion on a hot spot in a few hours, but the training and motivation of the troops would be uneven even with their spiffy equipment.

    How does this all jibe with the IPC you describe in the ACE webinar?

    1. OrBat is part of ‘Evaluate the Threat,’ which is just one step of IPC. Once you’ve conducted an OrBat of a potential adversary, the next step is developing their potential Courses of Action (COA). This could take awhile because COAs are situation-dependent, so you’d have to develop potential COAs for each potential situation. It’s A LOT of work, but it’s just like anything else: the more we do it, the better we get; and the better we get, the better we’re prepared. Hope that helps!

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