Find a Security Clearance Job!


Chapter 8

Signals Intelligence


8-1. SIGINT is a category of intelligence comprising either individually or in combination all COMINT, ELINT, and FISINT, however transmitted; intelligence is derived from communications, electronics, and foreign instrumentation signals. SIGINT has three subcategories:

  • COMINT - The intelligence derived from foreign communications by other than the intended recipients.
  • ELINT - The technical and geo-location intelligence derived from foreign non-communications electromagnetic radiations emanating from other than nuclear detonations or radioactive sources.
  • FISINT - Technical information and intelligence derived from the intercept of foreign electromagnetic emissions associated with the testing and operational deployment of non-US aerospace, surface, and subsurface systems. Foreign instrumentation signals include but are not limited to telemetry, beaconry, electronic interrogators, and video data links. (See JP 1-02)

8-2. SIGINT provides intelligence to the commander based upon intercepted communications and provides transmitter location data.


8-3. SIGINT provides intelligence on threat capabilities, disposition, composition, and intentions. In addition, SIGINT provides targeting information for the delivery of lethal and non-lethal effects.


8-4. It is important that the G2/S2 understand how SIGINT assets are organized not only within the Army but also throughout the DOD. The majority of SIGINT assets are located at EAC. SIGINT assets from all the armed services, combined with national SIGINT assets, work together to support commanders from the tactical to the strategic level. Only by understanding the SIGINT structure that transcends traditional service component boundaries can the G2/S2 understand how to use SIGINT effectively.


8-5. The TCAE architecture supports Army SIGINT collectors and analysts by providing SIGINT-specific intelligence and guidance to SIGINT personnel. The SIGINT technical architecture complements existing C2 relationships; it does not replace the commander's authority or chain of command.

8-6. There is a TCAE at each Army operational echelon. The TCAE at each echelon provides a single POC and resource dedicated to supporting the commander at that level. TCAEs or SIGINT elements at varying echelons draw information from each other in order to provide a more complete and detailed intelligence picture for their respective commanders.


8-7. The ATCAE, established at the national level, plays a significant role in TCAE operations by providing technical support oversight and providing access to national databases: in coordination with the NSA and other intelligence organizations. Additionally, the ATCAE works closely with NSA's IO element assisting in operations, monitoring technical capabilities, and providing liaison with Army's 1st Information Operations Command (Land). (This unit was previously called Land Information Warfare Activity.)

8-8. The ATCAE supports the Army's Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) SIGINT and signals research and target development (SRTD) operations. The QRC systems are responsive to the ground force commander's requirements and allow the ability to conduct SIGINT operations against modern communications systems.


8-9. The Army established RTCAEs to allow supported units at all echelons access to SIGINT regarding their respective AOI. The Army placed an RTCAE within each Regional Security Operations Center (RSOC). An RSOC is a joint service facility established by the Director, NSA, to conduct continuous security operations on selected targets in support of national and warfighter intelligence requirements using remoting technologies. The RSOC embeds a focus on the tactical commander's SIGINT requirements at a national level. It also creates a framework for enhanced interoperability among service SIGINT activities, especially within the context of a deployed JTF.

8-10. In addition to each RSOC, the RTCAE works closely with Theater TCAEs as well as Corps and Division SIGINT elements with the same regional focus. It provides analytic support and tailored products and answers RFIs. During peacetime and real-world operations RTCAEs facilitate intelligence reach support. They provide tailored technical support packages, support for surge and survey operations, analytic expertise, and signal data access and digital file transfers of live collection for Army tactical units.


8-11. The Theater TCAE performs SIGINT and EW technical control and analysis and management. It provides SIGINT technical support for assigned, OPCON, and lower echelon SIGINT resources deployed in the theater. This includes mission tasking, processing, analyzing, and reporting of SIGINT data, information, and intelligence. The TCAE provides direction for the Theater Collection and Exploitation Battalion's SIGINT mission and for other theater tactical SIGINT assets.


8-12. The TIB/TIG conducts operational level multidiscipline SIGINT operations. It provides timely intelligence to the commander throughout the full spectrum of operations. The TIB/TIG is structured to provide ground and aerial SIGINT support. It executes the full range of SIGINT missions or tasks.


8-13. There is a varying mixture of SIGINT assets within each corps. A reference listing the types of SIGINT assets found at echelons corps and below is listed in ST 2-50.


8-14. An important SIGINT planning consideration is that if at all possible, SIGINT collection should be employed in conjunction with another intelligence discipline collection system. SIGINT is often used to cue, and be cued by, other ISR assets.

8-15. During planning, the G2/S2 should retrieve, update, or develop any required SIGINT databases. This includes effecting coordination with other SIGINT assets or elements that can support the operation.

8-16. SIGINT ground collection assets are usually placed in proximity to enemy signal sources due to the limited height of collector antennas, the low power output of threat or enemy emitters, and the line-of-sight (LOS) constraints imposed by terrain. Ground-based SIGINT teams are most effective when positioned to:

  • Maximize threat emitter interception. This allows teams to overcome the constraints of threat emitter characteristics usually allowed by proximity to the threat.
  • Minimize system receiver interference. This increases the potential capability of the team to acquire threat emitters in a timely manner.
  • Optimize overlapping areas of intercept coverage. This ensures coverage of the AOIR and allows targets to be handed off from team to team if necessary.

8-17. Aerial SIGINT assets have additional planning requirements. Coordination must be effected with Army Airspace Command and Control (A2C2) for ingress and egress routes, restricted operating zones (ROZs) where the aircraft can travel on an intercept track, as well as with the supporting air operations center to determine the availability of asset types and times.


8-18. The G2/S2 ensures the SIGINT unit and asset leaders have effected all necessary coordination and conducted rehearsals. This includes establishing or verifying the operation of the SIGINT technical architecture. The G2/S2 also ensures all required SIGINT assets and resources are available, SIGINT reporting and dissemination channels and procedures are in place, and connectivity and interoperability exist with all pertinent SIGINT elements.

8-19. SIGINT OPCON is the authoritative direction of SIGINT activities, including tasking and allocation of effort, and the authoritative prescription of those uniform techniques and standards by which SIGINT information is collected, processed, and reported.

8-20. SIGINT operational tasking is the authoritative operational direction of and direct levying of SIGINT information needs by a military commander on designated SIGINT resources. These requirements are directive, regardless of other priorities, and are conditioned only by the capability of those resources to produce such information. Operational tasking includes authority to deploy all or part of the SIGINT resources for which SIGINT operational tasking authority (SOTA) has been delegated.

8-21. SOTA is the military commander's authority to operationally direct and levy SIGINT requirements on designated SIGINT resources; it includes authority to deploy and redeploy all or part of the SIGINT resources for which SOTA has been delegated.


8-22. SIGINT performs two major collection activities: signals intercept and direction finding (DF).

Signals Intercept

8-23. Signals intercept are those SIGINT actions used to search for, intercept, and identify threat electromagnetic signals for the purpose of immediate threat recognition. Signals intercept provides information required to answer PIRs, and other intelligence requirements in support of the ISR effort.

Direction Finding

8-24. Even when threat radio operators use COMSEC procedures, SIGINT teams can often intercept and approximate the location of the threat's signals. Specifically, SIGINT teams can use DF to determine-

  • Movement of threat personnel or equipment.
  • Locations of emitters associated with weapon systems and units.
  • New emitter locations and confirm known emitter locations.
  • Possible friendly targets the enemy intends to attack (lethal and non-lethal).

8-25. In addition to finding threat forces, DF operations can assist the (radio-equipped) friendly force by:

  • Locating and vectoring assets or units during limited visibility.
  • Locating downed aircraft and personnel radio beacons.
  • Conducting signal security assessments.
  • Locating sources of communication interference and jamming.


8-26. SIGINT processing involves converting intercepts of SIGINT into written and verbal reports, automated message, graphic displays, recordings, and other forms suitable for analysis and intelligence production. Since US forces routinely conduct operations against adversaries who speak languages other than English, SIGINT processing often also includes translation of these intercepts.

8-27. Due to the complexity of many SIGINT systems, automated processing may occur several times before SIGINT data or information receives any human interaction.


8-28. The SIGINT producer must ensure the SIGINT product satisfies the associated intelligence requirements and that the product is in the required format. The quality, fidelity, and timeliness of SIGINT products are highly dependent upon the type of intercept, the collection system, the system's position in relation to the threat emitter, the weather (including space-based weather), as well as the SIGINT operator's ability to identify the appropriate threat signal activity.

8-29. SIGINT production results in some of the reports and formats mentioned in the process section above; however, the objective for SIGINT is to be used in an all-source analytical approach.


8-30. The intelligence staff analyzes intelligence and information about the enemy's communications capabilities to determine appropriate SIGINT collection strategies. Conversely, a corresponding analysis of the friendly forces' SIGINT capabilities must be conducted to ensure the continued effectiveness of, or to improve upon, SIGINT collection.

8-31. SIGINT analysts also sort through large amounts of SIGINT and information and intelligence to identify and use only that which is pertinent to the CCIRs (PIRs and FFIRs).


8-32. SIGINT of critical importance to the force, including answers to the CCIRs (PIRs and FFIRs), is disseminated via the most expeditious means possible. Due to the usually highly perishable nature of SIGINT, the most expeditious reporting means is often immediately augmented with a follow-up report or augmented by a report transmitted through additional means, enhancing the probability of receipt. Sometimes the most expeditious means of reporting critical SIGINT information to the commander is face to face.

8-33. For intelligence reach operations, SIGINT products are available and disseminated in a variety of forms: hardcopy, softcopy, direct viewing, or listening (television or radio). It is incumbent on the requestor to ensure that the SIGINT product can be transmitted over the available communications systems. This includes verifying the appropriate security level of the communications system.


8-34. The primary goal of the assess function when applied to SIGINT is to determine whether the results of SIGINT collection meet the requirements of the unit's ISR effort. SIGINT producers must assess all facets of SIGINT operations, from receipt of the ISR task to the dissemination of SIGINT, in an effort to determine their effectiveness. This assessment is not only directed at each SIGINT asset individually but also throughout the supporting SIGINT architecture and the unit's entire ISR effort.

8-35. The G2/S2 immediately assesses SIGINT products upon receipt for accuracy and relevance. He must inform the SIGINT producer of the extent to which the product answered the PIR or intelligence requirement. Providing feedback to the SIGINT producer: and collector: helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of SIGINT.


Join the mailing list