An Army IMINT Concept
by Major Daniel W. Smith, Virginia Army National
Future successes of Army forces will be critically dependent
upon exploitation of space assets, capabilities, and products
across the entire spectrum of military operations, in an
environment of rapid political, technological, and economic change.
Army access to national civil allied military and commercial space
capabilities and products is essential to successful operations.
Information technology which enables success on the battlefield
relies on heavily on space operations.
This article identifies some of the assumptions, constraints,
and applications of imagery intelligence (IMINT). It is an attempt
to provide a conceptual framework for designing Army IMINT to take
advantage of current and emerging sensors, platforms, technology,
and programs as part of battlefield visualization and Force XXI.
The basic requirement for IMINT is simple to state: support the
commander. The reality of meeting this requirement, like most
missions, rapidly becomes complex. The Army must be ready to
respond globally to all levels of conflict and action, including
peacekeeping, humanitarian, and disaster relief. It must conduct
operations at strategic, theater, operational, and tactical levels
under any conditions anywhere at anytime. The IMINT response must
be immediate, or very close to near-real time, in all weather, and
at day or night to support our current intelligence operations.
IMINT must also be part of a sustained basic intelligence program
which allows for defining and taking proactive action before
conditions become a crisis. As a result, the commander's
information requirements have become much more comprehensive and so
has the IMINT mission.
IMINT must be prepared to operate under the same conditions and
at the same levels as well. Additionally, we need to realize that
small unit leaders and soldiers need intelligence to see over the
next hill as much as commanders at higher levels require it. Small
units need the IMINT because they are charged with accomplishing
the mission on the ground. Thus, we have two product requirements:
one to support intelligence and operational planning, and the other
to support tactical execution.
What has become increasingly important is not just the
presentation of imagery intelligence to commanders but the
interaction of the commander, his staff, and soldiers with IMINT;
mapping, charting, and geodesy (MC&G); and all-source intelligence.
The reference is to Force XXI's emphasis on information dominance,
and the advent of Mission Planning and Rehearsal Systems (MPRS).
They can function as electronic sand tables displaying mission,
enemy, terrain, troops and time (METT-T) factors. They allow
commanders, staff and soldiers to interactively analyze potential
courses of action.
IMINT is important in this case first because it is a visual
medium (a picture is worth a thousand words.) Second, digital
technology now allows not only the collection of more types of
imagery but also decreases processing and dissemination time and
allows the display and fusion of this data in a more comprehensive
fashion. Imagery is also the primary source for MC&G data for
denied or remote areas. The combination of imagery with geolocation
accuracy and digital terrain elevation data (DTED) allows for the
display of all-source data in the context of terrain so that the
enemy capabilities for observation, cover and concealment, and fire
and maneuver can be seen.
Army IMINT must provide target and situational development
information. Insight into terrain and weather helps to determine
effects on operations; the nature, capabilities, and activities of
the threat, enemy weaknesses, and potential high-value targets.
Most important, it identifies opportunities for decisive action.
Other validated requirements for Army IMINT are for mobile, easily
deployable systems for the receipt, processing, exploitation, and
subsequent dissemination of imagery. The systems must be reliable
and have self-contained communications. To support joint and
coalition operations, these systems must comply with standard
product transmission formats and protocols. Transmission of imagery
down to brigades and imagery products down to battalion requires
National, allied, civil and commercial satellite systems will
be active both in peace and war. Due to the physical limitations
of space orbit, no satellite imaging system will always be where it
can provide coverage of a crisis. Imagery analysts (IAs) must
consider classified and unclassified systems for maximum
accessibility and availability of imagery. Each system has unique
capabilities IAs can maximize if they use them in concert. Because
these systems are satellite platforms, they will be able to provide
imagery of denied or remote areas.
National imaging systems designed primarily for use by the
Department of Defense (DOD) and intelligence will provide
classified, timely, high-resolution, but small-to-medium
field-of-view imagery. Spectrally significant but less timely low-
to medium-resolution large area coverage imagery will be available
from U.S. and foreign civil and commercial imaging systems. A
number of commercial systems with resolutions of from one to three
meters will, for a price, provide medium resolution imagery.
Theater systems will be mission-constrained but active in
peacetime; they will not penetrate denied airspace under peacetime
conditions. During crisis and war, the enemy's air defense
capability and weather will constrain them.
Tactical systems will not generally be active during peace, but
very active during crisis and war. With the advent of unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAV), imagery will become more available even at
lower tactical levels.
Army IMINT will transition from light tables to softcopy
devices in order to speed exploitation. There will remain a need
for hardcopy products, primarily to support tactical end-users.
The Army will develop and implement digital sanitization
capabilities at all echelons. Digital sanitization is the combining
various types of imagery, all-source intelligence, and MC&G data to
produce a collateral secret or unclassified product which protects
or removes sensitive imaging and intelligence capabilities yet
provides actionable intelligence.
The intent of digital sanitization is to provide a product
tailored to support the execution of the tactical mission. The
format may be either hard or soft copy. The products can be line
drawings, annotated image maps, or perspective views of a target,
objective, or avenue of approach. For example, during the Vietnam
War a special forces task force trained for the 1970 Son Tay raid
to rescue captured pilots using imagery to produce and update a
scale model of the prisoner-of-war compound. Imagery also helped
produce a ful-size mock up of the compound for mission rehearsals.
Operation DESERT STORM provides another example. The Air Force
Mission Planning System used imagery and DTED to produce
fly-throughs for pilots rehearsing a mission. There is no technical
reason DOD cannot expand this capability to support ground
On 13 December 1995, the Director of Central Intelligence
approved the policy for imagery- derived unclassified products
created from current reconnaissance satellite imagery. The Central
Imagery Office (CIO) will distribute implementation details in a
forthcoming U.S. imaging system (USIS) directive. The 20-page
policy outlines the approval process and includes request forms.
Copies are available through the CIO Policy Division at (703)
275-5845 or DSN 235-5845 (STU-III) and they intend to make the
policy available on the INTELINK.
Current IMINT Concepts
Currently, IMINT elements provide imagery by pushing it down
to imagery exploitation organizations who then produce and
distribute products as requested. The system has been successful in
supporting corps- and sometimes division-level end-users but IMINT
is not usually disseminated any lower. The products supported by
push dissemination are text messages, hardcopy film, photographic
prints, line drawings, terrain and target models, and situational
IMINT Concepts Supporting Force XXI
Pull dissemination allows organizations to request what they
require through the Requirements Management Systems and prevents
their inundation with unnecessary imagery. For pull dissemination
to work, there must be a supporting communications capability for
timely dissemination of imagery, MC&G data, and all-source
intelligence. Dissemination does not necessarily have to be
electrical to meet peace timelines; mail or courier delivery may
suffice. Contingency plans must be made for prioritized electrical
dissemination or courier delivery during crisis or war. An example
would be providing an imagery database for a unit's contingency
operations on a compact disk with read-only memory (CD-ROM). Both
periodic receipt of another CD-ROM updating the coverage and
electrical receipt of imagery for specific targets and named areas
of interest (NAIs) could update this database.
Also required is an architecture of related archives on which
to store these imagery databases through the various operational
levels (from national to tactical) to depict a unit's areas of
interest and influence. There are a number of efforts to accomplish
this at the national and theater commander in chief (CINC) levels
but it must also be extended to the tactical level to support
planning and execution of missions.
At the tactical level this archive will provide access to an
imagery database of historical area coverage. Seasonal or
situational coverage from national, theater, allied, civil,
commercial, weather or digital hand-held imagery systems can update
archival information and relate it to all-source basic and tactical
intelligence. (The special forces, long-range surveillance units
(LRSU), brigade and battalion provide the hand-held imagery.)
"Pull" dissemination and imagery archives must be focused to
support two concepts and capabilities. They are the digital area
studies (DAS), and the Mission Planning and Rehearsal Systems
Digital Area Studies
The DAS is a concept to modernize basic intelligence by using
geographic information systems (GIS) to organize input from various
DOD, Army, intelligence and civil government agencies that provide
instantaneous and comprehensive intelligence for a specified
geographical area. The intent is also to reduce duplication of
effort and facilitate the fusion of diverse and multiple sources of
basic intelligence data.
The contemporary geopolitical situation requires the United
States and the Army to have detailed information on a greater
number of areas than during the Cold War era. A database helps us
to better monitor and assess foreign area political, demographic,
and economic trends; military and trade activities; foreign
relations policies and other factors to influence decisionmakers in
supporting U.S. national interests. The Army needs this data to
identify critical areas, plan responses and support mission
execution if tasked. It is obvious that properly populating DAS is
clearly more than an Army task. It will require input from every
U.S. Government organization involved with projects overseas. There
is also the implication that DAS would have to have various
security levels as well as formats for input and communication
DAS amasses, correlates, and manipulates data. The tactical-
level commanders, staff, and troops require MPRS to tailor and
interact with the information about their specific areas of
interest and influence, NAIs, targeted areas of interest (TAIs),
and objectives. The importance of MPRS is its capability to allow
end-users to see the battlefield.
MPRS will rely on IMINT to provide the base information for the
historic and current state of the terrain. It is critical that MPRS
can "ingest" any imagery related to a specific geolocation and
display information visually from the DAS or a specific fusion
system like the All-Source Analysis System.
MPRS can help in a number of activities. These include
MPRS will not change the thought process required by current
mission planning procedures or substitute for the mission analysis
process. It will improve the execution of planning procedures by
allowing the commander and staff to envision the operational area
and METT-T factors.
Availability, age, and accuracy of data will limit both DAS and
MPRS. (There is technology to support both concepts but no
coordinated architecture to provide data.) Figure 2 is a chart
containing elements required in a battlefield visualization
architecture. There is also the likelihood we will have to acquire
or provide data to coalition partners.
- Planning and assisting in the design of ground and air routes
and avenues of approach.
- Developing sites, targets, and actions on the objective and
helping to design the tactical schemes of maneuver.
- Assisting in the planning of fire support and air operations in
support of planned suppression, avoidance, or destruction of threat
- Improving the commander's "vision" by moving through the
operational area and depicting other aspects of mission execution
- Assisting participants in recalling and explaining details of
an operation; patrol-debriefing lessons learned during an
After considering the above assumptions and concepts, several
implied training tasks are apparent. They are
The Army must train imagery analysts (IAs) to exploit imagery
from national, allied, theater, tactical, civil and commercial
systems. They must use basic hardcopy techniques, and applied
softcopy image processing to select, input, geolocate, analyze, and
merge with all-source intelligence data to output hardcopy or
softcopy products. IAs must understand primary and secondary
imagery dissemination and be able to interact with and retrieve
imagery from distributed archives at various operational levels.
IAs must know how to input to and exploit GIS. They must also
understand and apply established imagery security policy.
For IAs to remain proficient, they must work with imagery and
imagery exploitation tasks. Corps- level organizations have the
access and assets to do this. The Army Space Program Office (ASPO),
Army Space Command, and the Tactical Exploitation of National
Capabilities Program (TENCAP) have provided IMINT capabilities to
corps and selected divisions. ASPO has developed the Imagery
Training Tool which, if provided to more units, can assist Army
IA's to stay current and effective in their military occupational
Army middle managers (officers and noncommissioned officers
(NCOs)) must understand basic IMINT security policy, request
procedures, capabilities, limitations, and applications which
assist in seeing their area of operations. They should know the
concepts of DAS and MPRS, and their potential contribution to
battlefield visualization. These concepts should be included in
basic, advanced, command, and staff courses, and the Command and
General Staff College.
Senior officers must integrate into the learning objectives a
basic understanding of imagery security policy, technology
including general system characteristics, sources, processing,
exploitation and products. They must know IMINT's role in
supporting Army and DOD missions. They should see the link between
DAS, MPRS and winning the information war.
Most importantly, end-users should be provided a basic
understanding of all standard imagery characteristics and standard
imagery applications and products. For example, image maps should
be included as part of all map reading courses so soldiers will be
able to use them if line maps are unavailable.
Train as you would fight. IMINT should be a part of direct support
to all combat training center (CTC) rotations for predeployment,
deployment, operations, and used during after-action reviews
Due to a number of factors, including study of Operations
DESERT SHIELD and STORM AARs, CIO conducted a study and used a
community-wide task force to review imagery security policy. A key
recommendation was to provide most national imagery at the
collateral secret level in order to meet the requirements of a
broader customer base.
The Defense Mapping Agency (DMA) is developing a controlled
imagery database (CIB) product based on SPOT imagery (a civil
satellite imaging system operated by the French). DMA is requesting
the CIB be allowed to use declassified national imagery to provide
worldwide coverage at a 5-meter spatial resolution. CIB could be
one of the imagery baselines used support to DAS and MPRS.
Invest in coordinating the systemmatic evaluation and the
procurement of technology for DAS, MPRS, civil and commercial
imagery. (This can be done within the Army with the knowledge that
for a comprehensive DAS we will need input and interoperability
with the other Services and U.S. Government agencies at a minimum.)
For DAS to be effective, there will have to be a U.S.
Government-wide effort to procure, populate, and to use it as a
database to synchronize government agencies.
The Army should improve IA and terrain analyst training and
IMINT support to CTCs, the Army War College, NCO and officer basic
and advanced courses for combat arms as well as intelligence, and
training for soldiers and various end-users. Users and producers
must have a common understanding of how to exploit and apply IMINT
to their missions.
This article presents some ideas on how IMINT can better
support Force XXI. Many of these concepts and converging programs
will specifically support battlefield visualization. IAs can
combine them with open-source information to provide not only more
information with a greater level of detail, but also in a visual
medium which can assist commanders and soldiers to see and interact
with available information about an area of operations.
IMINT can contribute to solving a great challenge to Force XXI. The
21st century force is not only the 21st century force is not only
fighting wars, but is also successfully conducting non-war military
operations where military capabilities synchronize with other U.S.
and foreign government agencies, nongovernment agencies, and the
United Nations to conduct peace-related, humanitarian, and disaster
relief operations. In effect we must learn to apply the same
intensity of battlefield dominance to synchronize non-war stability
and support operations.
IMINT will not read minds but it will allow one to more fully
understand the challenges encompassed by an area of operations. It
may, in combination with other sources of information, allow the
Army to achieve, as Sun Tzu said,
The highest principle in
the Art of War is to win without a battle.
Major "Dan" Smith is the imagery intelligence staff officer
for the Policy, Operations, and Doctrine Division in the Department
of the Army (DA) Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for
Intelligence. He is the DA point of contact for the DCI-approved
policy on imagery-derived unclassified products mentioned in the
article. Major Smith is currently Deputy G2, 29th Infantry Division
(Light), Virginia Army National Guard. He has a bachelors degree in
from. and a Master of Fine Arts from George Mason University.
Readers can reach theauthorat(703) 695-6195,orDSN225-6159.