Operational and Tactical Intelligence

Operational intelligence is intelligence that is required for planning and coordinating campaigns and major operations to accomplish strategic objectives within theatres or areas of operation.

Tactical intelligence is the art and science of determining what the opposition is doing, or might do, to prevent the accomplishment of the military’s or tactical level’s mission. In other terms, tactical intelligence is intelligence that is produced upon the tactical deployment for an operation that is planned at the operational level based on operational intelligence.

There is a significant correlation between these two levels of intelligence, in that, tactical intelligence informs the operational level on current operations and operational level plans for future operations based on operational intelligence, which again is disseminated to the tactical level. This shows a cyclic linkage between tactical and operational intelligence. Operational intelligence may utilize a wider range of intelligence types where as tactical intelligence may have limits. One similarity and a critical aspect in both operational and tactical intelligence is the timeliness of information to the operation.

If put into the policing context by giving a public order scenario, these two levels of intelligence can be described as below;

Operational intelligence: Operational level has intelligence or instructions from strategic sources or from its own analysis, about a public order situation that is likely to create disorder, at a known place, a known time, crowd size, intentions and also weapons in possession. Based on this operational intelligence, a plan is devised and the tactical level is deployed.

Tactical intelligence: Upon deployment and through engagement, the tactical level gathers information that the unlawful crowd plans to split, assemble and throw petrol bombs at government buildings. This information is passed on to the operational level as tactical intelligence for which operational level plans for further action and consult the strategic level and again instruct the tactical level.


– Elder, G., Intelligence in War: It Can Be Decisive, from the CIA web site at https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol50no2/html_files/Intelligence_War_2.htm accessed on 21 May 2008.


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