NGA and NRO Assist US Companions Hold Eye on Russian, Chinese language Forces

  • Two little-known US intelligence businesses have made important contributions to countering Russia in Ukraine.
  • The Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company and the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace have gathered and distributed priceless details about Russian exercise.

When folks speak about intelligence within the US, they normally take into consideration the CIA or the Nationwide Safety Company, two businesses well-known for his or her historical past and operational capabilities.

As essential because the CIA and NSA are, they’re solely a part of a community of 18 businesses and departments targeted on gathering, analyzing, and distributing intelligence.

The US intelligence group, because the community is understood, is an enormous and sophisticated group that has taken form over the previous 40 years, reflecting modifications in know-how and international threats.

Latest occasions have proven that these lesser-known businesses can have a direct, even outsize, impact on how the US authorities assesses and reacts to crises world wide.

Little-known intel businesses

National Reconnaissance Office United Launch Alliance Atlas V satellite rocket launch

A Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace payload is launched into house from Vandenberg Air Drive Base in September 2017.

US Air Drive/Senior Airman Ian Dudley

The US response to Russia’s struggle in Ukraine has pulled the Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company (NGA) and the Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace out of the shadows.

The NGA is liable for gathering and analyzing geospatial intelligence — that’s, intelligence about objects and exercise on earth — and for distributing it to help policymakers, different intelligence businesses, the navy, and regulation enforcement.

The NRO builds and operates spy satellites and floor stations with which it conducts its foremost mission: accumulating imagery and indicators intelligence with the intention to complement and help the work of different US intelligence businesses.

The US’s assets and the scope of its pursuits permits it to have separate organizations devoted to particular types of intelligence assortment. In that sense, the NGA and NRO are distinctive, and their capabilities are extremely prized throughout the US intelligence ecosystem and amongst US allies.

National Reconnaissance Office ground station

A Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace floor station.

Nationwide Reconnaissance Workplace

As Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to invade Ukraine gained steam in fall 2021, the NRO and NGA had been retaining very shut tabs on the Russian navy’s buildup alongside Ukraine’s borders.

After Putin unleashed his forces, these businesses continued monitoring and analyzing the Russian advances, providing policymakers priceless intelligence on the progress and situation of the Russian struggle machine.

US policymakers have made unprecedented use of that intelligence, sharing the plans and intentions of Russian forces and their leaders with allies. This intel-sharing has helped construct help for the huge quantity of navy help that the US and its allies have equipped to Ukraine, typically on brief discover.

In some ways, the NRO and NGA are sibling businesses. The NRO plans, designs, builds, and operates the satellites that NGA makes use of to supply intelligence merchandise. NRO satellites have many purchasers, however the NGA might be probably the most reliant on the satellites operated by the NRO.

Overview of ground forces and equipment in Yelnya, Russia

A satellite tv for pc picture of troops and tools in Yelnya, Russia, in late 2021.

Satellite tv for pc picture ©2021 Maxar Applied sciences

The NGA’s capabilities embrace the flexibility to find out the composition of buildings or objects on the bottom, which is effective for quite a lot of causes. It might permit navy planners to pick out the simplest munition for a precision strike or to find out the exact quantity of explosives that troops on the bottom must breach the goal throughout a raid.

The NGA operates some probably the most superior facial recognition software program on the planet. It might probably conduct human-pattern evaluation and even measure the gait and physique measurement of a person. The NGA can be adept at all-weather imagery evaluation, counting on a mix of hyper-spectral and multispectral sensors mounted on satellites and unmanned aerial techniques.

The NGA additionally works with overseas nations. Following the signing of a navy settlement with India in late 2020, for instance, NGA was permitted to “trade foundational data” with New Delhi, in response to the top of the company.

On the time, India was locked in a standoff with China alongside their disputed border within the Himalayas, and the deal allowed the US to share topographical, nautical, and aeronautical information.

The bin Laden mission

National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency bin laden compound

A mannequin of the bin Laden compound produced by the Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company.

Nationwide Geospatial-Intelligence Company

Not many individuals know that the NGA performed a key position in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the special-operations mission that killed Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Could 2011.

NGA analysts labored with SEALs from the Naval Particular Warfare Growth Group — previously referred to as SEAL Group 6 — to map the compound the place probably the most wished terrorist on the planet was hiding.

NGA analysts created three-dimensional renderings of the compound through the use of imagery and laser radar know-how, analyzed information from RQ-170 drones that orbited the compound, and tracked the every day moments of individuals within the compound to decided who was there.

The company additionally helped the “Night time Stalkers” of the elite a hundred and sixtieth Particular Operations Aviation Regiment create flight simulators that had been vital for his or her potential to fly MH-60 helicopters — a categorized stealth model of the Black Hawk — to the goal with out being detected.

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a protection journalist specializing in particular operations, a Hellenic Army veteran (nationwide service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ), and a Johns Hopkins College graduate. He’s working towards a grasp’s diploma in technique and cybersecurity on the Johns Hopkins’ College of Superior Worldwide Research.