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Casualty estimation is the process of estimating the number of injuries or deaths in a battle or natural disaster that has already occurred. On the other, casualty prediction is the process of estimating the number of injuries or deaths that might occur in a planned or potential battle or natural disaster.

Measures used to imply casualties include:

  • Reported number of kills
  • Number of enemy individual weapons captured after engagement
  • Number of tanks and aircraft lost
  • Remote sensing of mass graves


Measurement and signature intelligence alone cannot give a reasonable estimate of casualties. What Spectroscopic MASINT can do is help find mass graves. Geophysical MASINT can help localize metal and possibly bodies at that site. TECHINT is needed if there are weapons or artifacts to analyze. IMINT has a role to play in tracking movements. These all have to combine with all-source analysis. Perhaps the losses of tanks and aircraft, if available, might better predict what actually happened in a battle. MASINT's mass graves capability is a means that has been used for remote sensing of clandestine mass graves.

Author Sam Adams' book, War of Numbers discusses, in great detail, a process of casualty estimation. Adams was a CIA analyst who eventually resigned over what he felt was political manipulation of casualty figures in the Vietnam War. He explains how he came up with casualty figures for the NLF and PAVN. Adams, and other U.S. analysts dealing with a guerilla war in jungle, found there were better metrics than "body count". David Hackworth, for example, used number of enemy weapons captured after an engagement, and that turned out to be a good predictor of casualties, with certain limits.

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