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Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance: Air Force mission to meet tomorrow's challenges.


For more than 60 years the way the Air Force conducts its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission evolved as a result of global events. Since the end of World War II, Airmen have watched, listened and analyzed information gathered from abroad in order to protect the nation from foreign threats and adversaries.

The nation has faced many challenging times and conflicts. Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, units have been used to carry out missions supporting our nation's actions in various wars, crises and conflicts around the globe, such as the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War. operations Just Cause, Desert Storm, Allied Force, Deliberate Force: and the Middle East, and the nation's response to terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

Today, the responsibility for conducting ISR missions lies with the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency. The agency has existed in one form or another since late 1947, The agency's birth is credited to then Col. Richard P. Klocko. He worked to create a separate Air Force organization devoted to special information. Through his efforts, the Air Force established the Air Force Security Group on June 23, 1948. That group reorganized a few months later on Oct. 23, 1948, as the United States Air Force Security Service and remained as such until 1979.

In the '80s and '90s, the USAFSS evolved into the Electronic Security Command, 1979-1991, and then the Air Force Intelligence Command, 1991-1993, continued the mission and made significant contributions to the nation's security during the "Cold War" period of nuclear deterrence with the United Soviet Socialist Republic. The Cold War ended Dec. 25, 1991, with the breakup of the Soviet Union.

In 1993, to answer the changing dynamics of the geopolitical world, the Air Force re-designated AFIC as the Air Intelligence Agency. A new field operating agency under the Air Staff, AIA, began executing a new information operations mission.

On June 8, 2007, the Air Force re-designated the Air Intelligence Agency as the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency. The re-designation of AIA as the AF ISR Agency reflected yet another evolution of the organization's ISR mission. The new field operating agency is aligned under the Air Force deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The AF ISR Agency's mission continues to organize, train, equip and present assigned forces and capabilities to conduct ISR for combatant commanders and the nation. It also implements and oversees the execution of Air Force policies intended to expand ISR capabilities.

To accomplish its mission, the agency employs nearly 12,000 Airmen and civilians serving in more than 70 locations worldwide.

The agency oversees a network of ISR resources. The 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, at Fort George G. Meade, Md.; the 480th ISR Wing at Langley AFB, Va.; the National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and the Air Force Technical Applications Center at Patrick AFB, Fla. provide support. It also manages signals intelligence operations for the 67th Network Warfare Wing and the Air Force Information Operations Center both at Lackland AFB, Texas and the 55th Wing at Offut AFB, Neb. The agency manages missions and provides support for specific intelligence operations within these units. The support includes organizing, training and equipping the cryptologic elements of these organizations.

Inherent in its transformation, the agency is taking even more significant steps toward a new way of how it monitors, collects and processes the intelligence it collects.

The first and perhaps most significant step occurred in early 2008, when the Air Force reassigned the 480th ISRW from Air Combat Command's 8th Air Force to the AF ISR as part of AF ISR transformation. That realignment unified the distributed common ground system, or DCGS, elements under one agency. The DCGS is a family of fixed and deployable multi-source ground processing systems that support a range of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems such as national and commercial satellite systems, U-2, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, and F-16 Theater Airborne Reconnaissance Systems. This change created the Air Force DCGS as a global ISR weapon system, streamlining command and control operations and provided a single point of leadership.

"It is our job to get the right data about an adversary to the right person who needs that information in a timely manner," said Col. Rob Redwine, AF ISR mobilization assistant to the commander. "The way we disseminate information has also changed. Technology has given us new ways to distribute and collect information like DCGS."



Today, AF ISR's business of collecting intelligence on adversaries has taken a broader approach.

"ISR is more important today than it ever has been in the past," said Colonel Redwine. "When I came in the Air Force, we traditionally looked at one adversary--the Soviet Union--and they, like us, were a nation-state. They were easy to find."

But unlike the former Soviet Union, the enemy of today doesn't stay in one place and often appears in a variety of forms. So the agency has to place more emphasis on its ISR capabilities.

"Now we face a significantly different adversary that is difficult to locate; not a nation, and blends in with the population," said Colonel Redwine. "Because of the nature of conflict we are involved in today, I think the pendulum has swung from shooter to sensor--and AF ISR is the sensor."

Since the end of the Cold War and the start of the enduring struggle against terrorism and extremism, the world changed and so did the focus of this newly reorganized agency. This change includes how the agency performs its mission, taking on a more total force look.

During the past year the AF ISR agency has created a new, more efficient joint environment. The National Tactical Integration effort integrates national and tactical warfighting ISR capabilities for the combined or joint forces air component commander. Airmen conducting the NTI mission leverage all ISR capabilities to provide critical, time-sensitive information to component commanders for their respective missions.

"NTI gets information into a format that the customer can use," said Staff Sgt. Daniel Herr, an AF ISR Agency intelligence specialist. "But the key to success for this program is a total force working together."

Since Desert Storm the total force concept has been in full effect. Today, active-duty, Guard and Reserve units work together seamlessly.

The ISR total force is made up of 81 percent active duty Airmen, 16 percent Guardsmen and three percent are Reservists.

"We as Guard members have a vested interest in the total force concept," said Lt. Col. Kip Clark, 137th Intelligence Squadron commander. "We have always been involved in missions, dating back 55 years. This is nothing new."

The Air National Guard has three stand-alone intelligence groups, which have distributed ground stations in Indiana, Massachusetts, and Kansas. In addition, the Guard operates three squadrons in Alabama, Arkansas and Nevada. The ANG also has two associate squadrons at Langley AFB, Va., and Beale AFB, Calif. Their mission is to support warfighters in their respective areas of responsibility by providing intelligence analysis and distributing intelligence products to the combatant commanders.

A recent result of the transformation is the Guard's 181st Intelligence Wing in Terre Haute, Ind., which includes the manning of a distributed ground station.

The Indiana Air Guard unit stationed at Hulman Field Airport had been a fighter wing since 1954. Last summer, the wing was re-designated July 13, officially marking its transition from flying jets to processing and providing intelligence ground support and air operations at forward locations around the world.

Airmen in the 181st IW are now looking toward the future of warfare and many are re-training from being crew chiefs and fighter pilots to their new military professions, or Air Force Specialty Codes, in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance field.

More than 1,000 Airmen in the former fighter wing are involved in retraining into the intelligence career field. Training consists of two to seven months of formal training at Goodfellow AFB, Texas, and Keesler AFB, Miss., and another two months of on-the-job training in the field.

After training, these Airmen will support their new mission--operating a distributed ground station. This is a digital imagery and surveillance unit directly involved in global missions using the newest high-tech imagery equipment and unmanned aircraft systems at deployed locations. The station translates the imagery to troops on the ground and aircraft in the sky.

One of those units involved in this transformation is the 137th Intelligence Squadron.

"The biggest difference is, instead of driving through the gate to train and then leaving, we are now driving through the gate and providing 24/7 operations to the joint warfighter," said Colonel Clark.

The 137th IS provides assessments of adversary forces and support capabilities. The unit, through gathering intelligence, helps prepare units entering a particular battle space with details about adversarial forces they are about to engage.

Air Force Reserve contributions to the total force team include the 548th ISR Group, at Beale AFB, Calif., an associate unit combining active duty and Reserve Airmen.

The group operates Distributed Ground System-2 and Deployable Shelterized System-Film components of the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System. The group's mission is to produce strategic, operational and tactical intelligence in support of combat operations. The unit complements the Air Force Reserve's current associate unit presence in the Global Hawk unmanned aircraft system mission at Beale AFB.



For the customer, the products the AF ISR and its total force create and provide are invaluable to the joint warfighter.

For Staff Sgt. Loren Chaidez, a network analyst and NCO in charge of the ISR Operations Center, his role while at his home station is to monitor and collect intelligence to be analyzed. However, when he is deployed, he becomes a customer of those same products he provides from home station at Lackland AFB.

"Knowledge is power," said Sergeant Chaidez. "The more information you have the better edge you have against any adversary."

While deployed, Sergeant Chaidez uses that knowledge from his home station to locate and engage the enemy.

"You are out there finding bad guys and taking them out," he said. "Depending on what is going on, one team would go out and one would come back in--some of those missions lasting as long as 30 hours."

"The way we act has an impact on our nation's defense," said Sergeant Chaidez. "We (active duty, Reserve and Guard) are all part of a machine that protects and defends the nation."

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Title Annotation:United States Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency
Author:Maddox, Ryan
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2009
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