Navigation in Different Types of Terrain - Urban Areas

The world continues to become more urbanized each year; therefore, it is unlikely that all fighting will be done in rural settings. Major urban areas represent the power and wealth of a particular country in the form of industrial bases, transportation complexes, economic institutions, and political and cultural centers. Therefore, it may be necessary to secure and neutralize them. When navigating in urban places, it is man­made features, such as roads, railroads, bridges, and buildings that become important, while terrain and vegetation become less useful.

a. Interpretation and Analysis. Military operations on urbanized terrain require detailed planning that provides for decentralized execution. As a result of the rapid growth and changes occurring in many urban areas, the military topographic map is likely to be outdated. Supplemental use of commercially produced city maps may be helpful, or an up­to­date sketch can be made.

(1) Urbanized terrain normally offers many AAs for mounted maneuver well forward of and leading to urban centers. In the proximity of these built­up areas, however, such approach routes generally become choked by urban sprawl and perhaps by the nature of adjacent natural terrain. Dismounted forces then make the most of available cover by moving through buildings and underground systems, along edges of streets, and over rooftops. Urban areas tend to separate and isolate units, requiring the small­unit leader to take the initiative and demonstrate his skill in order to prevail.
(2) The urban condition of an area creates many obstacles, and the destruction of many buildings and bridges as combat power is applied during a battle further limits your freedom of movement. Cover and concealment are plentiful, but observation and fields of fire are greatly restricted.

b. Navigation. Navigation in urban areas can be confusing, but there are often many cues that will present themselves as you proceed. They include streets and street signs; building styles and sizes; the urban geography of industrial, warehousing, residential housing, and market districts; man­made transportation features other than streets and roads (rail and trolley lines); and the terrain features and hydrographic features located within the built­up area. Strategies for staying on the route in an urban area include:

(1) Process route descriptions. Write down or memorize the route through an urban area as a step­by­step process. For example, "Go three blocks north, turn left (west) on a wide divided boulevard until you go over a river bridge. Turn right (north) along the west bank of the river, and. . ."
(2) Conceptual understandings of the urban area. While studying the map and operating in a built­up area, work hard to develop an understanding (mental map) of the entire area. This advantage will allow you to navigate over multiple routes to any location. It will also preclude your getting lost whenever you miss a turn or are forced off the planned route by obstacles or the tactical situation.

(3) Resection. Whenever you have a vantage point to two or more known features portrayed on the map, do not hesitate to use either estimated or plotted resection to pinpoint your position. These opportunities are often plentiful in an urban setting.