Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance
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Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance

ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.

Information is collected on the battlefield through systematic observation by deployed soldiers and a variety of electronic sensors. Surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance are methods of obtaining this information. The information is then passed to intelligence personnel for analysis, and then to the commander and his staff for the formulation of battle plans. Intelligence is processed information that is relevant and contributes to an understanding of the ground, and of enemy dispositions and intents. Intelligence failures can happen, however.[2][3][4]

ISTAR is the process of integrating the intelligence process with surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance tasks in order to improve a commander's situational awareness and consequently their decision making. The inclusion of the "I" is important as it recognizes the importance of taking the information from all the sensors and processing it into useful knowledge.

ISTAR can also refer to:

  • a unit or sub unit with ISTAR as a task (e.g.: an ISTAR squadron)
  • equipment required to support the task

Variations of ISTAR

There are several variations on the "ISTAR" acronym. Some variations reflect specific emphasis on certain aspects of ISTAR.

STAR (Surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance)

A term used when emphasis is to be placed on the sensing component of ISTAR.

RSTA (Reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition)

A term used by the US Army in place of STAR or ISTAR. Also, a term used to identify certain US Army units: for instance, 3rd Squadron, 153rd RSTA. These units serve a similar role to the below mentioned US Marine Corps STA platoons, but on a larger scale.

STA (Surveillance and target acquisition)

Used to designate one of the following:

ISR (Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance)

USNS Sea Hunter, an unmanned ocean-going surface vessel[5][6] is well suited for freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS)[7][8]

ISR is the coordinated and integrated acquisition, processing and provision of timely, accurate, relevant, coherent and assured information and intelligence to support commander's conduct of activities. Land, sea, air and space platforms have critical ISR roles in supporting operations in general. By massing ISR assets, an improved clarity and depth of knowledge can be established.[9] ISR encompasses multiple activities related to the planning and operation of systems that collect, process, and disseminate data in support of current and future military operations.[10] [11]

On 28 July 2021 the NDAA budget markup by the House Armed Services Committee sought to retain ISR resources such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the E-8 Joint Surveillance Radar and Attack System (JSTARS) which the Air Force is seeking to divest.[12][13] Examples of ISR systems include surveillance and reconnaissance systems ranging from satellites, to crewed aircraft such as the U-2, to uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS) such as the US Air Force's Global Hawk and Predator and the US Army's Hunter and PSST Aerostats, to unmanned ocean-going vessels,[5] to other ground-, air-, sea-, or space-based equipment, to human intelligence teams, or to AI-based ISR systems. The intelligence data provided by these ISR systems can take many forms, including optical, radar, or infrared images or electronic signals. Effective ISR data can provide early warning of enemy threats as well as enable military forces to increase effectiveness, coordination, and lethality, and demand for ISR capabilities to support ongoing military operations has increased.[10]

For space-based targeting sensors, in a 2019 Broad Agency Announcement, the US government defined ISR in this case as "a capability for gathering data and information on an object or in an area of interest (AOI) on a persistent, event-driven, or scheduled basis using imagery, signals, and other collection methods. This includes warning (to include ballistic missile activity), targeting analysis, threat capability assessment, situational awareness, battle damage assessment (BDA), and characterization of the operational environment." Persistence was in turn described: "Persistent access provides predictable coverage of an area of interest (AOI). Most space-based intelligence collection capabilities consist of multiple satellites operating in concert, or supplemented by other sensors, when continuous surveillance of an area is desired. Persistent sensors must provide sufficient surveillance revisit timelines to support a weapon strike at any time."[14][15][16][17][18][19][20] The United States Space Force, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) share the satellite-based ISR task as of 2021.[21]

NGA uses Data transformation services (DTS), a program begun in 2018, to convert raw sensor data into a format usable by its mission partners, who are government agencies whose names are classified.[22]

NRO "has a proven track record in [ISR]",[23] insists one of the founders of the US Space Force, who defends the capability of the NRO over the ambition of the Space Force to take over the role of ISR.[23][24]

ISR concepts are also associated with certain intelligence units, for instance Task Force ODIN, ISR TF (Company+) in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In the United States, the similar entity is used within their Marine Corps's Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group (SRIG). The SRIG modelled as a consolidated military intelligence collection agency, most of the gathered intelligence are collected from many sources (i.e. STA Sniper platoons, Marine reconnaissance assets, signal intelligence, etc.).

ISTAR units and formations

See also


  1. ^ JSTARS E-8C
  2. ^ Joseph Votel (15 Aug 2021) The Painful Lessons of Afghanistan "The Cipher Brief: Intelligence assessments wildly missed the mark on how fast Kabul would fall, what factors contributed most directly to this? --Votel: General Votel: Certainly, the departure of our own capabilities is a big part of this; the lack of direct contact with Afghan leaders is another important factor; and, of course, once it was clear that we were departing (and took our Commander out) -- we lost priority and access with our normal and reliable Afghan intelligence sources." See Fall of Kabul (2021)
  3. ^ Meghann Meyers (17 August 2021) Final inspector general report details all the ways the U.S. failed in Afghanistan
  4. ^ Nathan Strout (16 Aug 2021) Satellite photos show chaos in Afghanistan exit
  5. ^ a b Joseph Trevithick (4 Feb 2019) Navy's Sea Hunter Drone Ship Has Sailed Autonomously To Hawaii And Back Amid Talk Of New Roles
  8. ^ Freedom Of Navigation Operations (21 Mar 2021) Strategy talk: Freedom of navigation operations audio clip, 38:10
  9. ^ AJP-3.15(A) NATO Allied Joint Doctrine for Countering - Improvised Explosive Devices.
  10. ^ a b Report to the Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of RepresentativesGeneral Accounting Office, 2008-03-15
  11. ^ THERESA HITCHENS and SYDNEY J. FREEDBERG JR. (4 May 2021) Exclusive: Army Plan May Loosen IC Grip On Sat-Based ISR Tactical Satellite Layer (TSL) experiment
  12. ^ Theresa Hitchens (28 Jul 2021) Lawmakers Throw Wrench Into Air Force ISR Divestment Plan
  13. ^ Theresa Hitchens (28 Jul 2021) Space Force Vice Argues Value Of Embattled Analysis Center
  14. ^ "Draft BAA, Time-Sensitive Target Mission Payloads Demonstration (TSTMPD) Solicitation Number: HQ0034-19-BAA-TSTMPD-0001".
  15. ^ Sandra Erwin (February 17, 2019). "Pentagon seeking proposals for how to use sensors in space to quickly target enemy missiles". SpaceNews.
  16. ^ (11 Feb 2021) SDA to launch several demonstration satellites in 2021
  17. ^ ESRI app, Satellite Map
  18. ^ Theresa Hitchens (1 Apr 2021) Theater Commands OK SDA's Sat Plans: EXCLUSIVE
  20. ^ Nate Turkin (28 Apr 2021) What focus areas are key to America's future space capabilities?
  21. ^ Theresa Hitchens (21 May 2021) Army Sat Ops Brigade Transfers To Space Force: Karbler
  22. ^ Theresa Hitchens (14 Jun 2021) NGA Seeks Upgraded Software To Speed Analysis: Processing, exploitation, and dissemination (PED) in support of the Concept of Operations (CONOPS) of the mission partners.
  23. ^ a b Theresa Hitchens (17 Jun 2021) Key Lawmaker Warns Off Space Force On Tactical ISR ' "I think before you hand off the ball, let's make sure there won't be a fumble -- and the Space Force has a lot on it's plate right now," Rep. Jim Cooper says. '
  24. ^ Theresa Hitchens (19 Jul 2021) Exclusive: NRO Erects Buy American Barriers Against Allied Satellite Data Authorities: conflicted

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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