Mission planning requires more than just throwing the dice and hoping for good luck. It is an art that requires an in-depth understanding of numerous critical elements or factors that may impact on the mission – both positively and negatively - and an assessment/analysis of how those elements or factors can be either negated, overcome or exploited to give the PMC the advantage it requires in the execution of the mission.
Any mission can be broken down into:
1. Strategic objectives: These objectives are usually derived from the client’s strategic objectives but are further analysed and fine-tuned to the PMC management level
2. Tactical objectives: These objectives stem from the PMC management’s strategic objectives and are an indication of the priority objectives (or targets) and the secondary objectives (or targets) that the PMC needs to achieve in order to successfully accomplish the mission.
From these objectives are derived the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept. These concepts are NOT the final plans but merely serve as direction-pointers to ensure that the mission remains the prime focus of the PMC.
Only once the Strategic Operation Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept are fully understood can the mission planning proper begin.
The role of on-going real-time intelligence plays a crucial role in the development of both the Strategic Operational Concept and the Tactical Operational Concept and allows adjustments to be made to the concepts. It is also this intelligence that will ultimately determine the mission-profile of the PMC. The mission-profile, in turn, will determine the amount of manpower, weapons, ammunition (first-line and first-line reserve), the phase(s) of war, tactics and so forth that will be followed.
In order to enhance the development of the tactical plan, it is imperative that intelligence- and reconnaissance - teams are deployed as early as possible in order to ensure a real-time intelligence feed on the targets. This allows further adjustments to be made to the tactical plan and, in turn, the mission profile to be adjusted if necessary.
Planning is a vital component for success and although luck can play a role, it is the ultimate plan, carried across to everyone partaking in the operation with clarity that determines the success of any mission. Team leaders must be allowed to display flexibility within the overall plan and, in turn, must develop their own plans at their level.
Once the tactical concept has been developed, it must, along with the operational plans - at all levels - be tested against the principles of the relevant operation. The ultimate aim is to ensure the correct men, correctly equipped, are at the right time and place to achieve the mission. This requires constant coordination between the various elements that will partake in the execution of the plan. In turn, casualties will be reduced.
Mission planning can be a tedious process but it requires continued focus on the outcome of the operation.
It will do planners good to remember that there are no second prizes in an operation and that no amount of firepower can rectify a poor plan.