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Center of gravity (COG)

Definition In military operations, the term “Center of Gravity (COG)” refers to the key element or source of power, both physical and moral, that contributes to an entity’s ability to achieve its objectives or maintain its strength. The identification and targeting of an opponent’s COG is essential for effectively weakening their capabilities and enhancing one’s […]


In military operations, the term “Center of Gravity (COG)” refers to the key element or source of power, both physical and moral, that contributes to an entity’s ability to achieve its objectives or maintain its strength. The identification and targeting of an opponent’s COG is essential for effectively weakening their capabilities and enhancing one’s own chances for success. The COG can vary from strategic decision-making centers to essential resources and logistical support structures, depending on the context of the conflict.

Key Takeaways

  1. Center of gravity (COG) is a key concept in military strategy, referring to the source of an adversary’s power, strength, or capability that enables them to maintain the will and resources to fight.
  2. Identifying and targeting an enemy’s COG is essential for planning effective military operations, as it allows commanders to focus their efforts on weakening the adversary’s most critical elements, ultimately leading to victory.
  3. COGs can vary greatly in nature, ranging from physical assets such as key infrastructure or elite military units, to intangible factors such as communication networks, political alliances, or public morale.


The military operations term “Center of Gravity (COG)” is important because it refers to the focal point or critical element that possesses unique capabilities, characteristics, or influence in shaping an adversary’s military actions or overall campaign.

Identifying the COG allows military strategists to focus their efforts and resources on targeting and neutralizing these critical elements, thus increasing the likelihood of achieving their mission objectives.

Moreover, understanding the COG contributes to effective planning, decision-making, and resource allocation in military campaigns, enabling military forces to address various risks, minimize collateral damage, and ultimately secure decisive victories with maximum efficiency.


The center of gravity (COG) is a critical concept in military operations that helps strategists and military commanders to identify and focus their efforts on the most decisive and influential elements of an opponent’s overall force structure. In essence, the purpose of identifying the center of gravity lies in concentrating efforts to exploit an enemy’s operational, tactical, and strategic vulnerabilities.

By recognizing and targeting this focal point, military forces can more effectively disrupt, weaken, and ultimately defeat the adversary, ultimately achieving their overarching strategic objectives. When analyzing an opponent’s military capabilities, the center of gravity represents an essential component that can influence the outcome of the conflict.

The identification and targeting of the enemy COG is valuable in guiding military action and resources by providing a comprehensive approach for the campaign. Primarily, determining the COG allows for the consolidation of efforts and resources, ensuring that military strategy is better aligned and enabling the execution of successful operations.

In practice, identification of a COG can help commanders prioritize targets, allocate resources, and shape the operational environment to their advantage. By understanding and applying the concept of the center of gravity, military leaders are better able to anticipate and exploit an enemy’s weaknesses, ultimately tipping the balance in their favor and enhancing the potential for success in the theater of operations.

Examples of Center of gravity (COG)

The concept of the Center of Gravity (COG) in military operations signifies a critical aspect or capability of a force that, if targeted or weakened, can lead to their defeat or an imbalance in their operational effectiveness. Here are three real-world examples:

Operation Desert Storm (1991): In the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi military’s COG was its command and control, as well as its air defense system. The United States-led coalition forces concentrated their attacks on these features, rapidly neutralizing Iraq’s ability to coordinate and effectively respond to coalition air and ground operations. Subsequently, this played a crucial role in the decisive victory in favor of the coalition forces within just a few weeks.

Battle of Stalingrad (1942-1943): During World War II, Adolf Hitler considered Stalingrad to be the COG of the Soviet Union’s war effort. He believed that by capturing the city, he could cut off the flow of supplies between the northern and southern fronts, thereby undermining the Soviet Union’s ability to wage war. The protracted battle, however, led to significant resource drainage and depletion in the German military’s strength, ultimately turning the tide in favor of the Soviet Union.

D-Day Invasion – Operation Overlord (1944): Before the D-Day invasion, the Allied forces identified the German military’s COG as their Atlantic Wall defensive system along the coast of Northern France. The Allies meticulously designed the invasion to weaken this defense line with a combination of deception, airborne drops, and amphibious assaults. Once the German defenses were breached and weakened, the invasion force was able to advance further inland, setting the stage for the eventual Allied victory in Western Europe.

Center of Gravity FAQ

What is Center of Gravity (COG) in military operations?

The Center of Gravity (COG) is a warfighting concept that identifies the critical aspects of an adversary or friendly force that, when exploited or defended, have the greatest impact on the outcome of military operations. It is typically a source of strength or power that provides a decisive advantage.

Why is identifying the COG important in military planning?

Identifying the COG is crucial in military planning as it assists commanders in focusing their efforts and resources on what is most vital to achieving their objectives. By effectively targeting the adversary’s COG or protecting one’s own COG, a military force can better anticipate challenges, exploit weaknesses, and build upon strengths.

How can commanders determine the Center of Gravity in a specific operation?

Determining the COG requires thorough analysis of various factors in the operational environment. Commanders must assess the characteristics and capabilities of the adversary and friendly forces, understand their objectives, and examine the critical aspects that contribute to their success or failure. This analysis can involve examining logistics, command structure, and population support among other factors.

Can the Center of Gravity change during an operation?

Yes, the COG can change during an operation when the conditions in the operational environment or the balance of forces shift, resulting in new critical vulnerabilities or strengths. Commanders must continuously analyze the situation, adapt to these changes, and modify their plans to adjust the focus of their efforts.

What role does the Center of Gravity play in the Joint Operational Planning Process (JOPP)?

The COG analysis is an integral part of the JOPP as it informs the development of the commander’s operational approach, objectives, and priorities. It helps planners identify decisive points in the operation and allows them to direct and synchronize resources effectively to achieve the desired end state.

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Sources for More Information

  • Joint Chiefs of Staff: The official website of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provides comprehensive information on various military concepts, including the Center of Gravity (COG).
  • Federation of American Scientists: This reputable organization offers extensive resources on military operations and strategy, including information about the Center of Gravity (COG).
  • U.S. Army: The official website of the United States Army contains a wealth of information on military tactics and strategies, including the concept of the Center of Gravity (COG).
  • RAND Corporation: As a global policy think tank, RAND Corporation has conducted research and analysis on a variety of military topics, which can be a valuable source when looking for information on the Center of Gravity (COG) concept.

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