Infantry Drills

A-121: Course of Action Analysis

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A-121. COA analysis begins with both friendly and enemy COA and, using a method of action-reaction-counteraction war game, results in a synchronized friendly plan, identified strengths and weaknesses, and updated risk assessment. After developing the COA, the leader analyzes it to determine its strengths and weaknesses, visualizes the flow of the battle, identifies the conditions or requirements necessary to enhance synchronization, and gains insights into actions at the decisive point of the mission. If he has developed more than one COA, he applies this same analysis to each COA developed. He does this analysis through war gaming or “fighting” the COA against at least one enemy COA. For each COA, the leader thinks through the operation from start to finish. He compares their COA with the enemy’s most probable COA. At small-unit level, the enemy’s most probable COA is what the enemy is most likely to do. During the war game, the leader visualizes a set of enemy and friendly actions and reactions. War gaming is the process of determining “what if?” factors of the overall operations. The object is to determine what can go wrong and what decision the leader likely will have to make as a result. COA analysis allows the leader to synchronize his assets, identify potential hazards, and develop a better understanding of the upcoming operation. It enables him—

  • To determine how to maximize the effects of combat power while protecting friendly forces and minimizing collateral damage.
  • To anticipate events within the area of operations.
  • To determine conditions and resources required for success.
  • To identify additional control requirements.
  • To identify friendly coordination requirements.

A-122. COA analysis (war gaming) brings together friendly and enemy forces on the actual terrain to visualize how the operation will unfold. It is a continuous cycle of action, reaction, and counteraction. This process highlights critical tasks, stimulates ideas, and provides insights rarely gained through mission analysis and COA development alone. War gaming is a critical step in the planning process and should be allocated more time than the other steps. War gaming helps the leader fully synchronize friendly actions, while considering the likely reactions of the enemy. The product of this process is the synchronization matrix. War gaming, depending on how much time is devoted to planning, provides—

  • An appreciation for time, space, and triggers needed to integrate direct and indirect fire support, obscurants, engineers, air defense artillery, and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear with maneuver platoons (Infantry, antiarmor, or tank) to support unit tasks and purposes identified in the scheme of maneuver.
  • Flexibility built into the plan by gaining insights into possible branches to the basic plan.
  • The need for control measures, such as checkpoints, contact points, and target registration points, aid in control, flexibility, and synchronization.
  • Coordinating instructions to enhance execution and unity of effort, and to ease confusion between subordinate elements.
  • Information needed to complete paragraphs three, four, and five of the OPORD. Assessments regarding on-order and be-prepared missions.
  • Projected sustainment expenditures, friendly casualties, and resulting medical requirements.

Next: A-123: Course of Action Comparison and Selection

Go Back To: U.S. Army FM 3-21.8: The Infantry Rifle Platoon and Squad