Force XXI

An Army IMINT Concept

by Major Daniel W. Smith, Virginia Army National Guard

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 Requirement

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 broadcast technology.


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 operations.
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 graphics.

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 (MPRS).

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 protocols.
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 Assistance

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.


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 specialties.
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 (AARs).

Converging Programs

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.

Upcoming Changes

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.