The Air Assault Division's DISE

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by Major Warren P.Gunderman and First Lieutenant Brett A. Sciotto

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As the only air assault division in the world, the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) has unique intelligence needs that pose several challenges to the Intelligence battlefield functional area. Like our sister division, the 82d Airborne Division, the mission of the 101st requires that a Division Ready Brigade be "wheels up" for deployment anywhere in the world within 18 hours.

The 101st is unique in that it normally conducts operations 150 to 300 kilometers beyond the line of contact or forward-line-of-own-troops, requiring theater- and national-level intelligence support as a matter of course. The best way to provide this theater- and national-level intelligence support quickly and effectively to the forward deployed units as well as to the division as a whole is to conduct split-based operations by fielding a deployable intelligence support element (DISE).


DISE Concept and Integration

The concept of split-based intelligence operations is not new. For years, senior intelligence officers have briefed the merits of sending forward a light intelligence support package that is linked to an intelligence support base outside the area of operations. On the night of 27 June 1997, the soldiers of the 311th MI Battalion Analysis and Control Element (ACE) put the theory into practice. For the first time, the 101st "air assaulted" a DISE in support of the Division Ready Brigade. The event also marked the first tactical night air assault of a TROJAN Special Purpose Integrated Remote Intelligence Terminal (TROJAN SPIRIT) II (TS II).

Integrating a DISE into the air assault division's doctrine is fundamentally challenging. The DISE does not take the place of the assault command post--it augments the assault command post (ACP). The DISE must maximize its capability and mobility, minimize both its weight and signature, and, most essential, get the necessary intelligence to the combat commander. The concept is simple in principle, but it never ceases to challenge the imagination of the DISE leadership.

The mission drives the packaging of the DISE. The centerpiece of the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) DISE is the TS II, around which the DISE is configured. Typically, the 101st DISE will include eight soldiers, a TS II, an All-Source Analysis System-Remote Workstation (ASAS-RWS), and a Warlord Notebook (WLNB) computer, which can all deploy on a total of three vehicles and two trailers. The typical 101st DISE can be lifted by two CH-47 Chinook helicopters and one UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and can set up almost anywhere in less than two hours.

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The 101st DISE sets up to support a brigade task force.

Mission Architecture

The mission of the DISE is to provide immediate, on-site intelligence fusion and analysis, and to get that intelligence to the combat commanders when they need it. Critical to mission accomplishment is the establishment of an intelligence and communications architecture which brings connectivity to the battlefield. The DISE must have connectivity not only to the ACE back in sanctuary but also to national-level intelligence agencies, corps, and division assets, and, ultimately, to the combat commanders in the field.

The TS II provides access to the Secure Internet Protocol Router Network (SIPRNET). It also provides communications and datalinks to the ACE and supported units via a local area network (LAN). By linking to the ACE through the TS II, the DISE has connectivity with and access to the complete national-level multidiscipline capabilities provided by the Mobile Integrated Tactical Terminal (MITT). The DISE can process both sensitive compartmented information and collateral intelligence through the TS II. It can also provide the division or brigade task force (TF) with almost seamless connectivity to Intelligence Link (INTELINK) and other intelligence resources.


DISE Operations

When the DISE deploys in support of the Division Ready Brigade, it is prepared to integrate the capabilities of the organic MI slice into the total intelligence effort. The inclusion of a net radio protocol (NRP) capability in the DISE links the TF and the ACE with division-level signals intelligence (SIGINT) capabilities.

The 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) typically employs several low-level voice intercept teams, AN/TLQ-17 TRAFFICJAMs, AN/TRQ-32 TEAMMATEs, and QUICKFIX helicopters to provide tailored SIGINT collection for the TFs. Through the NRP, the DISE can receive and transmit data collected by the divisional assets to the ACE and can provide those assets with updates from the ACE and national-level agencies. We have found this capability invaluable in maximizing the capabilities of our divisional SIGINT assets. In addition to the NRP, the inclusion of the Commanders Tactical Terminal (CTT) takes SIGINT connectivity one step further and connects the DISE with such corps-level assets as the Guardrail Common Sensor.

While SIGINT, human intelligence, and measurement and signature intelligence all play critical roles on the battlefield, a picture can equal a thousand words. Thus, it is imagery that many tactical commanders desire. The TS II allows the DISE to receive imagery from the ACE and national-level agencies efficiently and quickly.

The Imagery at the 101st Airborne Division is typically sent from the Mobile Imagery Exploitation System (MIES) at the XVIII Airborne Corps to the MITT at the division for dissemination. The MITT operators take the imagery and post it to the ACE's WLNB LAN. The DISE can access this LAN through the TROJAN network, and can retrieve the images quickly.

The TS II also gives us the capability to "pull" annotated secondary imagery directly from the Training and Contingency Division (TACD) at the Washington Navy Yard in the event that the ACE LAN is down. The challenge to our DISE is how to best get these pictures to the combat commanders.

There are several different means the DISE uses to provide connectivity and "push" intelligence to the brigade TF S2s. In a division's fight, the Mobile Subscriber Network (MSE) provides the primary link to the brigades. The DISE typically plugs into a small extension node (SEN) or a forced entry switch (FES) and creates an MSE LAN with adjacent units. This LAN allows the DISE to load intelligence reports, imagery, and situation overlays into the hard drive of a TF's RWS or WLNB LAN. A second means of connectivity is a direct hardwire connection from the TS II at the DISE to the division or brigade TF RWS. This configuration maximizes capability, but severely degrades the flexibility and mobility of the DISE.

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Troopers of the 311th MI Bn ACE preparing to "air assault" a Trojan Spirit II


The DISE concept in the 101st continues to evolve with each mission. The TS II is now routinely "air assaulted" and the DISE has proven mobile enough to keep up with an air assault TF. The DISE deploys to support division and brigade TF missions and exercises with connectivity, imagery, and intelligence products. As the DISE configurations and capabilities evolve, those configurations and capabilities are validated at the Combat Training Centers. All DISE soldiers are cross-trained, and their training is constant and intense. The DISE ensures that the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) combat commanders' intelligence team is


Major Gunderman is the Executive Officer (XO) of the 311th MI Battalion, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He has served as the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT) ACE Chief and the G2 Operations Officer, as a Joint Staff Crisis Operations Officer at the Pentagon, and a U.N. Military Observer in the Middle East. MAJ Gunderman has a bachelor's degree in History from the University of Pittsburgh and a master of arts degree in Middle Eastern Studies from the State University of New York-Binghamton. Readers can contact him via E-mail at [email protected] and telephonically at (502) 798-5554 and DSN 635-5554.

First Lieutenant Sciotto is the SIGINT Chief and DISE Officer in Charge for the 101st Airborne Division (AASLT). Prior to his assignment as SIGINT Chief, he served as a Collection and Jamming Platoon Leader, Direct Support Company XO, and S2 of the 311th MI Battalion. 1LT Sciotto graduated from the U.S. Military Academy with a bachelor of science degree in Political Science. Readers can reach him at (502) 798-4569, DSN 635-4569, or via E-mail at [email protected]