Signals Intelligence SIGINT
Technological advances in weaponry and communications continue to drive the need for NATO forces to field responsive ISR assets that possess capabilities for interoperability. Rapid and accurate collection, exploitation, and dissemination of relevant information are vital to achieving operational objectives. The value of sharing SIGINT data, particularly ELINT/ESM information for suppression ofenemy air defenses (SEAD) missions, is obvious. The near real-time information that SIGINT can contribute to dynamic force protection is unique. SIGINT data can provide equally vital information on other aspects of adversary activities, such as weapons status, situational awareness, and adversary intent.
For a variety of reasons, SIGINT has not had that same measure of scrutiny and policy collaboration as IMINT. Nations have their own systems and procedures for collecting SIGINT. Sharing, if done at all, has been done on an ad hoc basis. Procedures for exchanging SIGINT information need to be refined so that allied forces can be reasonably confident of working from thesame information base for mission planning and dynamic retasking. As with imagery, current technological trends for SIGINT offer a mixed bag of opportunities. While potential adversary electronic capabilities are becoming more difficult to exploit, there also exists processing and dissemination technologies that enable efficiencies in the sharing of information amon gallied assets. Capturing these processing and dissemination technologies in a set of community-accepted standards and processes is another challenge.
The development of a consistent set of SIGINT-related mission tactics, techniques, and procedures for NATO assets is still in the formative stage. Since the SIGINT assets provided by nations will vary with each scenario, it is important to recognize the common procedures, techniques,and interfaces that have been used in recent NATO operations as a starting point for furtherdevelopment. As with imagery, the detailed activities of SIGINT missions depend on the operationalobjectives.
The high level objectives for the various types of SIGINT missions include:
- Provide Indications and Warnings (I&W)
- Intelligence preparation of the battlespace
- Identify enemy orders of battle/force disposition
- Situation development
- Monitor enemy activities
- Provide adversary intent
- Force protection
- Support to targeting objectives
- Support to assessments such as BDA
The mission plan consists of a flight plan, sensor tasking plan, communications plan, andexploitation plan. Control of the air platform, sensor, and datalink will be guided by theseplans. The control can be automatic, manual, or a combination of the two. In the case of UAV's, platform and sensor control may be remoted from the air platform or the UAV mayoperate autonomously given pre-programmed instructions. The data collection process begins with an original tasking and the collection plan. The original tasking identifies the information needs of supported commander. Collection management personnel will breakout the essential elements of information (EEI) for the SIGINT missions. The collection plan includes the operating area for the air platform, blue force/allied positions, and target requirements list.
The process starts with the preparation of the collection crews reviewing known adversary order of battle information and intelligence briefs of recent pertinent activity. The mission crews (airborne or ground-based collection personnel) plan out the flight plan to optimize the collection profile to meet the tasking. The mission crew will plan out a collection strategy designed to satisfy their tasking. Dynamic tasking of the platform and sensor may occur while the mission is enroute to the target area or on its flight path. The collection strategy can be modified in an ad hoc fashion during the mission to adjust to observed target activity.
After the air platform, whether manned or unmanned, takes off, it flies the pre-planned route to the target area. During the transit to the operational area, the mission collection crews bring up the collection systems and test them out to make sure they are operational. Once the system is checked out, the system can be used to acquire targets of opportunity while en route to the operational area.
During the ISR collection flight, the mission crew will use order of battle information and data from pre-mission planning to develop and/or modify a collection plan to satisfy mission tasking. The ISR mission crew will send out activity tippers based on intelligence requirements via approved communications and data links. In the event of a direct threat to NATO forces, the ISR crews will also pass threat information directly to the affected forces over the most expedient communications means available (usually voice networks).
SIGINT can make a major contribution during NATO operations through its ability to report locations and identification of adversary forces and equipment. The capability to identify and geolocate adversaries can support the variety of NATO missions. These capabilities will support all of the high-level reconnaissance objectives, from providing indications and warnings to supporting assessments such as BDA. Specific examples of improved support that SIGINT can provide to NATO include support to EW for SEAD operations and enhancing force protection capability.
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