Battle Damage Assessment

Captain Glenn Dickenson  

Enemy battle damage assessment (BDA) is an intelligence task that many units overlook or under-resource. During the heat of battle, BDA is often an afterthought. I created the system the 1st Cavalry Division used successfully during the Division Warfighter 1997. This system automated the BDA process and could be the basis for the incorporation of an automated BDA capability into the All-Source Analysis System (ASAS).

To emphasize the importance of the BDA process, a captain supervised the process of compiling the data for the division. The BDA team was made up of an officer in charge (OIC) (O-3), an noncommissioned officer in charge (NCOIC) (E-6), and a BDA specialist (E-4). As the OIC, I focused my team's efforts on two tasks: achieving situational awareness and pulling data from units. For a unit in contact, BDA is normally an afterthought. This is why the OIC must pull data proactively in lieu of simply compiling it. If you do not ask for it, the data may never be reported. Data was pulled from subordinate, adjacent, and higher units. The NCOIC focused on performing quality control on the data, mainly to prevent double reporting. The specialist maintained the BDA log and database.

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Figure 1. BDA Data Input Sheet.

Developing the System

Many units still use a manual tracking system with a vehicle picture for each major killing system. As a vehicle is destroyed, the vehicle is crossed off the unit's equipment sheet. This is effective for quick analysis, but turning this sheet into an automated briefing slide is difficult. Our system allows us to quickly produce briefing slides to update the commander at each shift-change brief. It can also display the damage to a unit after a significant engagement.

The database is the cornerstone of our system and, consequently, requires the most work. Prior to a deployment, the entire enemy order of battle must be entered into the database. It takes approximately one month to input the entire order of battle for our division area of interest. The database includes all of the killing systems in enemy units down to battalion level. The database (built in Microsoft ExcelTM) consists of three parts: the Input Sheet, the Data Sheet, and the Briefing Chart.

Using the BDA System

Input Sheet. The BDA specialist uses the input sheet (see Figure 1) to enter reported BDA data. It shows the starting strength, the number killed, and the number remaining for each killing system. The number of killed enemy weapon systems is divided into two parts: the number killed in the last twelve hours and the total number killed except in the last twelve hours. The specialist enters all new data into the "12 HR" row as reports come in and are analyzed. After each shift-change brief, which occur every twelve hours, the BDA specialist must manually add the "12 HR" kills to the "Kill" row to prepare for BDA tracking for the next 12 hours.

The purpose of the "New" row is to provide space on the printout to write in the numbers in case the computer crashes. The "New" row has no effect on the formulas in the sheet. It does not effect the charts or the slides that are described below.

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Figure 2. BDA Data Sheet.

Data Sheet. This sheet (see Figure 2) is not accessible to the BDA specialist. It does all of the calculations for the briefing chart using the data from the Input Sheet. It contains the formulas necessary to give percent strengths and the remaining correlation of forces and means (COFM) values.

The unit strength formula is calculated based on the total number of killing systems that remain. The COFM value also should have been a factor in calculating the unit strength, but by the time we realized this omission, we were already too far along in the process to change the production of the sheets. This is a needed improvement to the data sheet.

If units reconstitute, the additional systems are added to the start of exercise (STARTEX) percent on the data sheet. For example, if a unit's starting strength is 80 percent and it is 5-percent reconstituted, the OIC or NCOIC updates the starting strength to 85 percent on the Data Sheet.

Briefing Chart and Presentation. The information from the "Total" rows on the Data Sheet was used to build the charts for briefings in the spreadsheet software (see Figure 3). The charts are linked to slides in a graphics program to create briefing slides for the commander. Each change to the Input Sheet updates the presentation slides automatically.

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Figure 3. Commander's Briefing Chart.


This automated process easily calculates a unit's current percent strength. The computer does all of the "number crunching" so the BDA team can focus on maintaining good quality control of the data and on ensuring that units report the information in a timely manner.

The unit percent strengths are linked to a word-processing document that we converted to Internet Hypertext Markup Language and posted to the G2's tactical internet homepage. (See "Tactical Homepage Operations" on page 38.) Units can access the homepage to find the strength of any enemy unit down to battalion level.

A similar automated program could be integrated into the software that runs the ASAS system. A terminal could be established for the management of the BDA data. The enemy database that is already loaded in ASAS would reduce much of the preparation time needed prior to a deployment. An integral automated BDA system in ASAS would greatly help the analysts in the analysis and control element (ACE) because they would be able to show the current strength percentages on their products. This would allow them to incorporate that factor into their analysis of the enemy forces, hopefully bettering their analyses.

Captain Dickenson is currently the S4, 312th MI Battalion. His past duty positions include Deputy G2 Operations, S2 of an Engineering Brigade, Platoon Leader in a jamming platoon. CPT Dickenson has a degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Military Institute. Readers can contact him telephonically at (817) 288-7424, DSN 738-7424, and via E-mail at [email protected]