wert out order

Order of battle

An order of battle was, in its original form during the European period of Medieval warfare, the order in which troops were positioned relative to the position of the Army commander. Today it refers to a listing of military units, often with equipment, location and other relevant information.

It was also applied to the disposition of ships in the line of battle during the age of sail. In the later transformation of its meaning during the European period of Early Modern warfare the order of battle came to mean the order in which the units maneuvered or deployed onto the battlefield to form battle-lines, with the positioning on the right considered the place of greatest honour. This need to reflect the unit seniority led to the keeping of military staff records, in tabular form reflecting the compilation of units an army, their commanders, equipment, and locations on the battlefield.

During the Napoleonic wars the meaning of the order of battle changed yet again to reflect the changes in the composition of opposing forces during the battle owing to use of larger formations than in the previous century. With standardisation in organisation of field forces as part of regiments, brigades, divisions and Corps, the order of battle often became associated and confused with table of organisation which is a permanent composition of a given unit or formation according to army doctrine and to suit its staff administration operations. Napoleon also instituted the staff procedure of maintaining accurate information about the composition of the enemy order of battle, and tables of organisation, and this later evolved into an important function and an organisational tool used by military intelligence to analyse enemy capability for combat.

In its modern use the order of battle signifies the identification, command structure, strength, and disposition of personnel, equipment, and units of an armed force during field operations. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common.

Historical approaches


British military history is the source of some of the earliest orders of battle in the English language, and due to the British Empire's involvement in global conflicts over several centuries the records of historical orders of battle provide an excellent source of study and understanding not only of the composition, but also of tactics and doctrines of the forces through their depiction in the orders of battle. The British Army and UK forces use ORBAT to describe the structure of both friendly and enemy forces.


Clausewitz defined the ‘order of battle’ as “that division and formation of the different arms into separate parts or sections of the whole Army, and that form of general position or disposition of those parts which is to be the norm throughout the whole campaign or war.” Division comes from the permanent peace organisation of the Army, with certain parts such as battalions, squadrons, and batteries being formed into units of higher order up to the highest of all, the whole Army. Disposition comes from the tactics and how these troops are to be drawn up for the battle. Normally these tactics are exercised in peace and can’t be essentially modified when war breaks out. Order of battle belongs more to tactics than strategy. Clausewitz also noted that the order of battle depends on the effective span of control by a commander. Too few subunits makes an army unwieldy; too many subunits makes the ‘power of the superior will’ weak; and in addition every step by which an order has to pass weakens its effect by loss of force and Longer time of transmission. Clausewitz recommended that armies have no more than eight to ten subunits and subordinate corps four to six subunits.

United States Army

In the United States Army practice, an order of battle should relate what an American unit might be expected to encounter while on field operations. Orders of battle analysts consider enemy units, personnel, and equipment as they may be used on any given sector of combat.

The United States Army divides an order of battle entry on an intelligence status report by the following factors:

  • Composition: the command structure and organisation of headquarters and subunits
  • Disposition: geographical locations of unit headquarters and subunits
  • Strength expressed in units and weight of fire delivered by its weapon systems
  • Personnel training
  • Tactics used by the enemy unit
  • Logistics: how the enemy unit obtains its supplies
  • Combat Effectiveness using complex algorithms and combat modelling applications
  • Electronic Technical Data used to provide data for the combat modelling applications
  • Miscellaneous data related to specific task, mission or operations

* Personalities (known enemy personnel and their behaviour, often based on communications intelligence analysis
* Unit history used to judge expected performance based on its past performance
* Uniforms and insignia to enable confirmation of the above data

The collection of order-of-battle data is the responsibility of the unit commander, through the G-2/J-2 (intelligence) section. A U.S. Army military intelligence group maintains an Order of Battle Section as part of brigade HQ.

The rule of thumb used by American military intelligence is that each unit should keep track of enemy subunits two echelons below its own: that is, a division should monitor enemy units confronting it down to battalion, a brigade should monitor enemy units down to companies, and a battalion should monitor enemy forces down to platoons. General George S. Patton was one of the first to recommend this practice.

The United States military's intelligence capabilities in the 21st century have allowed for monitoring even further than two echelons down the chain of command. It is quite common for a US battalion-group to be able to identify the location and activities of not only squad level enemy forces but even individual vehicles. This "situational awareness" provides a more complete picture of the battlefield for US forces.

Up until the end of the Cold War, order of battle was generally an orderly but extremely frustrating process for NATO because although Warsaw Pact nations had well known order of battle, tactics, techniques and procedures, that of the Soviet Army fluctuated often, significantly, and changes were often undetected for years at below-division levels. The situation has been exacerbated today when the US Army is engaged in operations against a non-traditional enemy (insurgents, guerrillas, etc.) and no order of battle can be compiled, the equivalent military intelligence output requiring an increase in acquired data and analysis effort to provide an accurate and timely picture to the combat commander.

See also



  • Carl von Clausewitz, J. J. Graham, Jan Willem Honig. On War. Contributor F. N. Maude, Barnes & Noble Publishing, 2004 ISBN 0760755973

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