Convergence of Intelligence: The implication of tactics on the intelligence effort
Updated: Sep 11, 2021
On November 7th, 1944, U.S. 20th and 12th Army Corps would conduct a series of Division level passages of lines vicinity Nancy and Thionville, France to encircle General Kittel and the 462d Volksgrenadier Division in Metz. This operation would culminate the push across France and prepare the allies for the eventual invasion of Germany. The 5th Infantry Division would conduct a passage of lines with 10th Armored Division and 80th Infantry Division, while the 9th would pass between the 95th Infantry Division and the southern boundary of GEN Bradley’s 12th Army Group. Then the 5th and 90th would conduct flanking movements and reorient their axis of advance and meet up in Retonfey, France; completing the encirclement.
A forward passage of lines (FPOL) followed by division level flanking maneuvers that reorients the Corps Axis of advance is a complex tactic requiring significant planning, timetables and specific sets of conditions (enemy and friendly) to occur in order for the strategy to work. There are also significant implications to the conduct of Division and Corps intelligence, namely intelligence leader crosstalk, cross division collections synchronization and effective analytic intelligence hand off. Normally, this is lead and driven by the Corps through a series of intelligence synchronization, targeting and collection management meeting. The purpose of this article is to highlight some of the planning and execution consideration when 2 or more Division G2 Intelligence efforts converge at a place and time on the battlefield.
In many exercises, it is common practice to train divisions along parallel boundaries. This requires DIV G2s to laterally exchange intelligence views, but their primary efforts remain within their directed boundary. Unless enemy forces cross friendly boundaries in significant levels of strength, intelligence emphasis remains internal and the intelligence common operating picture is retained at the Corps G2.
When a Corps Commander decides to conduct a Division FPOL followed by a reorienting of the Corps Axis with lead elements in contact, the characterization of intelligence exchange shifts from clear lines (boundaries) to more of a zone of joint emphasis. During such maneuvers, there are areas of terrain and enemy capacity where multiple units have a vested interest in the intelligence picture. These convergence points must be realized early in the planning process and the conditions to ensure a common intelligence emphasis must be thought through and rehearsed.
Similar to Intelligence Handover Lines (IHL), where there is more of a transition of responsibility for analysis and collection generally associated with Coordinated Fire Lines (CFL) or Fire Support Coordination Lines (FSCL), intelligence convergence points inherently require a high level of shared continuous coordination. The nature of that shared continuous coordination is determined by the maneuver tactic to be executed.
Below are a series of questions to be used as a planning start point:
1. At what point in time and location do multiple unit’s intelligence collection and analytic process converge with the unit conducting the FPOL? (Identifying convergence points in space and time)
2. If the command’s tempo and operation is driven by a series of potential maneuver conditions (ie flank, turn, FPOL), is the collection and analysis plan designed to account for a shared continuous intelligence picture across Divisions? (conditions-based intelligence execution across formations)
3. As friendly forces move parallel and then across the Division’s frontage (FPOL to flanking move), what intelligence hand over processes must occur for the maneuvering G2 to have the most accurate read? (shared continuous intelligence coordination)
Identifying convergence points in space and time
During a typical FPOL, the lead Division tends to have the primacy of intelligence collection and analysis of the threat. Predetermined conditions, such as threat scenario at the FPOL location, transition of fires responsibilities and maneuver lanes are established during the planning process. The convergence points for an FPOL begin with the shared intelligence of the lead Division’s security zone, followed by an understanding of enemy capabilities that could impact entrance into designated maneuver lanes, and a final lead Division read of the threat across the forward line of troops (FLOT).
One of the most complex Division maneuver forms is the flank across another Division’s frontage. When an attacking Division is required to maneuver in front of a lateral Division, they are likely maneuvering into the lateral Division’s forward deployed reconnaissance and security elements. The first convergence point in a flank will be at the point the flanking unit turns across the forward line of the lateral Division. This inflexion point of intelligence requires both G2s to cross-level their understanding of current and intended collection (ground/air/space) assets as well as common understanding of the threat. The critical point for the G2 observing the flank must understand is that their forward intelligence requirements decrease, and they deliberately transition the intelligence responsibility to the G2 that is conducting the flanking maneuver. The next convergence point occurs at the limiting control measure of the flanking maneuver. If the flanking Division crosses the total frontage of one Division into another, that is the next convergence point and the same coordination occurs.
The turning movement generally occurs when a Corps changes the axis of advance along a determined cardinal direction. There is the high potential that the inside Division becomes the pivot point of the turn. During the turn, the lateral Divisions will now maneuver through battlespace that the pivot Division once viewed as its forward intelligence area of emphasis. Similar to a flank, the convergence points of intelligence occur at the points of turn for each lateral Division. However, during a Corps turning movement, the next convergence point occurs at the end of the turn when all Division have established a congruous line of advance.
To help coordinate intelligence emphasis at convergence points, below are some recommended planning guidelines for Corps and Division G2s to work through during the orders process:
1. During joint Division terrain analysis, identifying specific terrain where the pivotal point of maneuver is to occur is likely a point of intelligence convergence. Shared Named Areas of Interest (NAIs) must be established to ensure each Division has a clear understanding of the convergence points.
2. Once locations are identified, collection managers and G2s must gain a shared understanding of Intelligence requirements where Division Commanders share decision making.
3. Primacy of collection responsibility must be established to deconflict collection redundancy and ensure the dissemination of critical intelligence transcends Division boundaries.
4. When necessary, deliberate hand off of collection assets may be required. This battle drill should be rehearsed and must only occur under predetermined sets of conditions.
5. As a part of intelligence handover, a shared analytic view of the conditions surrounding the convergence point must be established at set intervals before the maneuver is to take place.
Conditions-based intelligence execution across formations
When Divisions execute an operational design based on a series of predetermined conditions, the intelligence effort must take on the responsibility of identifying when those specific conditions come to fruition. The tendency is to order Priority Intelligence Requirements (PIR) according to a sequential of perceived events or conditions. The relationship of intelligence requirements takes on a transactional relationship and could detach the cognitive nature of intelligence from the intended strategy. G2s will find their efforts preordered along axis of advance or driven by timelines.
G2s must balance the requirements to provide understanding sequentially and prioritizing a level of cognitive understanding of indications of threat potential. PIR are intelligence requirements that are critical to the accomplishment of the entire operation. Knowing when a specific set of enemy conditions exists can be a subcomponent of a PIR but Division level intelligence questions rarely occur in a sequenced order. PIR focus the analytic energy, organization, and collection operations of a Division; a sequential application could limit the Division G2s total understanding of the battlespace.
Operational task- Fix the 33d Motorized Rifle Division.
To be fixed means being prevented from moving any part of the force from a specific location for a specific period of time. The phenomena of being “fixed” could occur at varying times and not necessarily because of friendly action. River crossings, bulk contaminated fuel, complete disruption of supply lines; could all cause the same fixed dynamic. A Division could be tasked to “fix the 33d MRD” and it could be task 8 of 15 in a maneuver plan but the G2 is required to look for the indicators from the commencement of operations.
Conditions based intelligence requires a multi-int approach to accurately determine an anticipate set of circumstances, and the knowledge that the condition is actualized. “Where will the condition occur and how do I know it when I see it?” For each anticipated maneuver condition, there will be an anticipatable enemy action or reaction. Understanding what conditions the enemy will present requires a tremendous amount of study on threat tactics, techniques, habits and strategies.
“The 33d is fix vicinity OBJ Chargers. Its frontline units have formed a hasty defensive line across our axis of advance, Engineer assets failed to establish a bridge crossing at XYZ and the Fires Strike Complex has transition from point targets to barrage type fires. The US Joint Forcible Entry has maneuver behind their second echelon and cut off the northern egress route.”
To accurately account for enemy conditions, Division Intelligence teams must emphasize a high degree of predicted analysis during step four of the Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). The focus of NAI development remains the same; establish what conditions should exist at in this space and at what time. The difference being, there is a heavier emphasis on what enemy actions trigger or initiate friendly actions or decisions.
Shared continuous intelligence coordination
The greatest separation of intelligence processes occurs at the Division level. Neither DCGS-A or ICI adequately afford for the development of a cross Division digital intelligence common operating picture (ICOP). Unless the Corps intelligence team creates a central repository of intelligence, there is likely no preexisting ICOP with enough detail for all Divisions to tether their intelligence to.
For the above types of maneuvers to be performed by a Corps (Division flank, FPOL, Corps turn), the Corps must establish a downward focused intelligence plan of collection, analysis, and dissemination (see 3d Army, Desert Storm). Division G2s will require a specific and routine battle rhythm event focused on shared intelligence at points of convergence or a digital repository designed to instantaneous share and disseminate the Division collection and analysis. Just as these maneuver actions are decisive events for Corps and Division Commanders, they are decisive events for G2s.
Conclusion: The encirclement of Metz
Prior to the attack on Metz in November 1944, US 20th Corps determined a specific set of conditions were required to successfully accomplish the FPOL and dual flanking movements to complete the encirclement
US 10th Tank Division must fix enemy forces at Forts Driant and Jeanne D’ Arc.
US 5th and 90th Divisions must conduct a wet gap crossing over the Moselle River with enough combat power to affect the encirclement.
US 95th Infantry bypasses Fort Jeanne D’ Arc, conducts wet gap crossing of the Moselle River and conducts the attack on Metz to draw enemy forces to the west enabling the link up of the US 5th and 90th Divisions at Retonfey.
Multiple conditions required specific analysis, shared across 4 Divisions, to achieve the operational objective of encircling Metz. There were six instances of intelligence convergence; two FPOLs, two flanking movements across Division frontages, the fixing of enemy elements to enable a bypass and the link up at Retonfey. 20th Corps completed the defeat of the 462d Volksgrenadier Division at Metz and General Kittel was made a prisoner of war.
The US 20th Corps G2 made effective use of aerial photos, Corps cavalry and reconnaissance units, reports from Division G2 reconnaissance units, as well as French agents to compile repeated intelligence estimates that were rapidly disseminated to each of the Divisions. Each estimate addressed inaccuracies in prior assessments, updates to enemy troop dispositions and judgements on the combat proficiency of enemy organizations. While wholly inaccurate the weeks prior to the attack on Metz, this running estimate, repeatedly updated, focused on convergence points, and rapidly disseminated became the decisive intelligence required to defeat the enemy under complex maneuver tasks.