Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance

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Since the beginnings of armed conflict, superior knowledge has been one of the keys to effective combat power. For over 100 years, Airmen have exploited the vertical dimension to gain a decisive information advantage over our foes. The evolution of globally integrated ISR has fundamentally changed how America fights wars. Today, the Air Force has embraced globally integrated ISR as one of the Air Force’s feature calling cards. ISR is much more than a support function. It is the foundation upon which every joint, interagency, and coalition operation achieves success. Our 34,000 ISR Airmen identify and assess adversary targets and vulnerabilities from hideouts to bunkers to mobile launchers with greater accuracy than ever seen in the history of warfare. In 2012 alone, ISR Airmen shaped combat plans for 33 named operations, enabled the removal of 700 enemy combatants from the fight, provided critical adversary awareness and targeting intelligence to U.S. and coalition forces in over 250 “troops-in-contact” engagements, enhanced battlespace awareness through 540,000 hours of sustained overwatch of tactical forces and communication lines, and identified over 100 weapons caches and explosive devices that would have otherwise targeted American and partner forces.

Air Force ISR is about helping leaders make informed decisions to maintain deterrence, contain crises, or achieve success in battle. Through a mix of aircraft, satellites, and other technologies that collect, exploit, and disseminate critical information, Air Force ISR gives policymakers the ability to minimize uncertainty about our adversaries and their capabilities. It does so by strengthening deterrence, making adversaries act more cautiously, providing intelligence that allows commanders a decision-making advantage, and delivering real-time information on which joint, interagency, and coalition operations rely to fight effectively and win. Globally integrated ISR allows American forces to carry out functions that they previously performed with much greater danger and at higher cost.

In recent years, the development of Air Force ISR capabilities has focused mainly on meeting the needs of permissive combat environments. In more contested future environments, gaining and maintaining an ISR advantage will become increasingly difficult and even more important. Therefore, the Air Force will focus primarily on enhancing its ISR capabilities for operations in contested environments. Accomplishing this will require updating the current mix of ISR assets, while also giving significant and sustained attention to modernizing Air Force ISR systems and capabilities.




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