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Candidate target list (CTL)

Definition A Candidate Target List (CTL) is a list of potential targets, compiled through a detailed analysis of the enemy’s capabilities and intelligence information. It ranks these targets based on their priority, importance, and potential effects on the enemy. The CTL is then refined through a thorough target selection process, eventually resulting in the development […]


A Candidate Target List (CTL) is a list of potential targets, compiled through a detailed analysis of the enemy’s capabilities and intelligence information. It ranks these targets based on their priority, importance, and potential effects on the enemy. The CTL is then refined through a thorough target selection process, eventually resulting in the development of a prioritized Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List (JIPTL) for specific military operations.

Key Takeaways

  1. A Candidate Target List (CTL) is a list of potential targets that have been identified and prioritized based on their significance and the impact their elimination might have on enemy capabilities.
  2. The CTL is a valuable tool for military commanders, assisting in the development of operational plans and the allocation of resources. It ensures a focused and efficient approach to achieving mission objectives and minimizing collateral damage.
  3. Targets on a CTL undergo continuous review and assessment, as the list evolves according to new intelligence, changing tactical situations, and mission requirements. This ensures that military operations remain flexible, adaptable, and aligned with strategic objectives.


The Candidate Target List (CTL) is an essential component of military operations, as it helps streamline and prioritize potential targets for engaging during combat or strategic mission planning.

The CTL is developed through rigorous analysis of intelligence, operational requirements, and tactical considerations, ensuring that military forces are focusing their efforts on the most significant and high-value objectives.

By having a well-constructed CTL, military commanders can allocate appropriate resources, synchronize assets, and make informed decisions that increase the likelihood of mission success and minimize collateral damage.

Furthermore, the CTL serves as a vital tool in ensuring adherence to international laws and rules of engagement, as it assists in distinguishing legitimate targets from non-combatants and protected sites.

Overall, the importance of the CTL lies in its ability to enhance military effectiveness, reduce operational risks, and maintain compliance with ethical and legal standards.


The Candidate Target List (CTL) serves a crucial function in the thorough planning and execution of military operations, by allowing for the systematic identification and prioritization of potential targets. During the strategic and operational phases of military campaigns, military intelligence and reconnaissance units collect critical information on enemy capabilities, assets, and infrastructure.

The CTL gives military commanders a comprehensive list of these potential targets, allowing them to determine which among them play vital roles in an adversary’s warfighting capacity, command and control, or logistical support networks. By assisting in the assessment of the enemy’s key vulnerabilities, the CTL enables commanders to develop more effective strategies and allocate resources more efficiently.

In pursuit of achieving mission objectives and operational success, the CTL is invaluable for guiding precision strikes and reducing the risk of collateral damage. The evaluation and selection process for candidate targets often involves a rigorous methodology, taking into consideration multiple factors such as target significance, potential collateral effects, and feasibility of engagement.

This process also ensures compliance with the principles of military necessity, distinction, and proportionality – which are fundamental to the law of armed conflict. Consequently, the CTL serves as a vital tool for military commanders, allowing them to focus on high-value targets, minimize unintended consequences, and maintain consistency with ethical and legal obligations during times of conflict.

Examples of Candidate target list (CTL)

The Candidate Target List (CTL) is a list of potential targets identified by intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information, as well as target development efforts. These targets may be considered for the planning and execution of military operations. While specific examples from real military operations are usually classified, here are three general examples that demonstrate how CTLs could be used:

Operation Desert Storm (1991): During the Gulf War, the US-led coalition forces created a CTL to identify and prioritize key military installations, command and control centers, and air defense systems within Iraq and occupied Kuwait. The list helped in planning strategic airstrikes to weaken the enemy’s capabilities, disrupt communication, and ultimately achieve military objectives.

Operation Allied Force (1999): In the NATO-led military intervention in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (primarily in Kosovo), a CTL would have been used to identify and prioritize targets such as enemy military facilities, air defense sites, and infrastructure critical to the adversary’s warfighting capabilities. By targeting these specific locations, NATO aimed to weaken the Yugoslav military and bring an end to the violence in Kosovo.

Counter-terrorism operations: In the ongoing global war against terrorism, CTLs play a critical role in identifying high-value targets like terrorist leaders, hideouts, training camps, and weapon caches. By maintaining accurate and updated lists, military organizations can carry out precise strikes against key objectives, maximizing the effectiveness of their operations and minimizing the risk to civilians.

Frequently Asked Questions: Candidate Target List (CTL)

1. What is a Candidate Target List (CTL)?

A Candidate Target List (CTL) is a comprehensive list of potential targets that military commanders compile during the planning phase of a military operation. This list is generated through intelligence gathering, data analysis, and strategic planning to ensure optimal targeting during the operation.

2. How is a CTL created?

A CTL is created by gathering information from various military intelligence sources, analyzing priorities and objectives of the mission, and then determining the potential targets that could pose a threat or contribute to the accomplishment of mission objectives. Each target is evaluated by factors like significance, potential impact, feasibility of engagement, and risks involved.

3. What elements does a CTL consist of?

A CTL usually consists of target identification data, target description, geographical location, target intelligence, and engagement priority. The information on the list is crucial for the planning and conduct of a successful military operation.

4. How is a CTL used during military operations?

A CTL serves as a guide for military commanders to prioritize and allocate resources for target engagement. It allows them to develop detailed plans for engaging targets of high importance while considering available assets and alternative options. The CTL also enables commanders to anticipate the potential impacts of target removal on the mission, thereby ensuring seamless decision-making during the operation.

5. Can a CTL be modified during a military operation?

Yes, a CTL can be modified during a military operation based on updated intelligence or changes in the operational environment. Military commanders must constantly assess the situation and update the CTL to reflect new priorities or emerging threats. This flexibility is essential to respond effectively to dynamic, evolving battlefields and maintain operational effectiveness.

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