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Competing observable

Definition “Competing observable” in military operations refers to any action, event, or piece of information that can potentially distract or divert attention from the main or intended observable. It can be used intentionally to deceive or mislead the enemy, or it could be unintentional and cause confusion. In essence, it is any observable element that […]


“Competing observable” in military operations refers to any action, event, or piece of information that can potentially distract or divert attention from the main or intended observable. It can be used intentionally to deceive or mislead the enemy, or it could be unintentional and cause confusion. In essence, it is any observable element that competes with the primary focus of a military operation.

Key Takeaways

  1. Competing Observable is a military operations term which essentially refers to the fact that an enemy, or a potential adversary, is capable of observing or gathering intelligence about multiple activities or operations that may be ongoing simultaneously.
  2. This term underlines the strategic importance of preventing enemy forces from being able to accurately interpret or anticipate tactical moves. By conducting multiple operations at once, it becomes harder for enemy forces to accurately predict future actions based on their observations.
  3. A significant element of successful military strategy is the ability to undertake and manage competing observables. This not only includes the planning and execution of numerous operations but also entails controlling the flow and perception of information in order to mislead the adversary or get them to focus on less important operations.


The term “competing observable” in military operations is important because it refers to the strategic process of managing information and visibility to deceive or mislead the enemy.

It involves creating alternative interpretations of actions, movements, or strategies to confuse the adversary and disrupt their decision-making process.

That way, it assists in masking real intentions and tactics.

The ability to successfully implement a competing observable can give a significant advantage in the battlefield, making it a key part of military strategy and operations.

It can protect troops, defend assets, and ultimately contribute to successful mission outcomes.


The term “competing observable” is used in military operations and strategic planning to refer to situations where multiple indicators or information sources vie for attention and interpretation. These indicators could include anything from observable physical activities, such as troop movements or weapon deployments, to more abstract signs, such as shifts in economic policy or political alliances. The purpose of identifying competing observables is to provide a more complete and nuanced understanding of a given situation, as they bring to light the presence of multiple possible scenarios or explanations that require careful analysis and interpretation.

In the realm of military intelligence, the concept of competing observables serves to enhance the decision-making process. By identifying and analyzing different indicators, military strategists can evaluate the overall situation from multiple perspectives and take into account the complex interplay of various factors. For example, if certain indicators suggest an imminent attack, while others hint at a diplomatic resolution, these would be considered competing observables.

In such cases, decision-makers would have to carefully analyze each observable, weigh their relative importance, and make a judgement as to which scenario is more likely. Therefore, the concept of competing observables introduces an additional layer of complexity into intelligence analysis, making it a valuable tool in the hands of strategists.

Examples of Competing observable

“Competing Observable” is a military term referring to situations, events, or tactics where multiple potential targets are prepared or presented to the enemy, forcing them to decide which to focus on, thereby splitting their attention and resources. Here are three real-world examples:

D-Day Invasion: During World War II, the Allied forces used deceptive tactics before D-Day to confuse the Germans about the actual invasion location. They created fake army bases, landing crafts, and even made radio transmissions suggesting that the attack would happen at Pas de Calais instead of Normandy. This led the Germans to divert their resources and attention, making it a competing observable situation.

Operation Desert Storm: During Gulf War in 1991, the Coalition forces led a highly coordinated air-ground campaign. The ground forces feigned an attack on the coast, forcing Saddam Hussein’s forces to concentrate their defenses there, while the actual attack came via a fast and unexpected left hook through the desert. The multiple potential lines of attack produced a competing observable situation for Iraq.

The use of Decoy Drones: Nowadays, militaries can use decoy drones to create competing observables. By deploying a group of drones, some real and others decoys, they can force the enemy to split their defenses and resources, deciding which to attempt to shoot down and which to ignore. This technological advanced tactic effectively creates a competing observable situation.

FAQs on Competing Observable in Military Operations

What is Competing Observable?

Competing Observable is a concept used in military operations to indicate a situation where an object or individual becomes observable and therefore detectable due to multiple reasons. It is often used in discussions of surveillance, counter-surveillance and evasion tactics employed in military operations.

How does Competing Observable affect military operations?

The effect of Competing Observable in military operations is significant in terms of the tactics used. When an enemy unit is detectable for multiple reasons, it increases the chances of locating and neutralizing it. Conversely, when friendly units become observable, they become vulnerable to enemy actions. Therefore, understanding and managing competing observable is a key factor in the success of military operations.

What strategies are used to manage Competing Observable?

Strategies to manage Competing Observable largely involve methods to lower detection chances like camouflage, deception, and use of terrain. By blending in with the environment, moving at times of reduced visibility, and using sensor-evading technologies, military forces attempt to reduce their observability and gain an advantage over the enemy.

How does technology impact Competing Observable?

Advancements in technology have a profound impact on Competing Observable as the escalation in surveillance and detection technologies enhances the possibility of being observed. On the other hand, development in stealth and evasion technologies helps forces in minimizing their observable signatures. Thus, technology plays a critical role in shaping Competing Observable in contemporary military operations.

Related Military Operation Terms

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  • Dependents Educational Assistance (DEA): Provides education and training opportunities to eligible dependents and survivors of veterans.

Sources for More Information

  • Federation of American Scientists: This non-profit, made up of scientists and engineers, is dedicated to providing scientific information in understandable terms, including military terminology such as “competing observable”.
  • National Center for Simulation: The NCS provides training, modeling and simulation to the defense industry, including insights into military operations terms such as “competing observable”.
  • Joint Chiefs of Staff Official Page: The Joint Chiefs’ site includes resources that touch on military operations and could provide more information on “competing observable”.
  • RAND Corporation: A non-profit global policy think tank, RAND may offer reports or articles that mention the term “competing observable” in the context of military operations.

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