@thespybrief, @YF117A, @BKflavius, @lkrichardson

As I have promised, an aviation ISR thread is coming up. I wanted to get my ducks in a row to put together something of graduate level quality.

This is a broad topic that will cover air, space, cyberspace: so let's do it.

Seizing the high ground is hardly a new concept in military strategy.

The Han Dynasty in China saw Ji Leng sending scouts to elevated terrain to provide early warning of impending attack.

In 1315 Switzerland at the Battle of Morgarten, victory was attained by leveraging

advanced knowledge of an adversary force, and the brilliant maneuver on this terrain to win a disproportionate, almost Thermopylae-like engagement (obviously it was not a victory in Greece- but a Pyrrhic victory for Xerxes to some extent.)

Elevation matters.

So enters aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance from the air.

The first time this is seen with an "aircraft" is probably the French Revolution. The French Aerostatic Corps developed "lighter-than-air" balloons for military observation roles in 1794.

The French Aerostatic Corps participated in the Battles of Fleures and Mainz before eventual disbandment in 1799.

The envisioned mission for the Corps by the French when created?

"Reconnaissance, signaling, and distribution of propaganda."

Clearly parallels to modern

operations can be seen here, from leaflets to cyberspace influence ops.

Later in the US Civil War, a civilian balloon aeronautical unit would provide the Union Army with Confederate dispositions during the ill-fated Peninsular campaigns and at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

So.... this is the lead-up to the First World War: which is where the airplane enters the military scene.

Things to ponder as I grab some supper:

How do you make the "map" match the actual reality of the "terrain" in real-time?

Because this is the "Holy Grail" of ISR...

With the 1903 Wright Brothers Flight the age of heavier than air aviation dawns.

And the US expresses less interest than European powers in the fledgling tech. The upstart Wrights surpass the well-funded (by the US Army & Smithsonian) Samuel Langley in the achievement..

As the Wrights tour Europe with the Flyer, the US Army finally begins to show interest-The Aeronautical Division within the Office of the Chief Signal Officer stands up in Aug 1907. By 1908- the Wrights make a test flight in Virginia of the Army's first airplane built to spec

This airplane is called "Signal Corps No. 1" and the specs demand it have a "range of 125 miles, a min speed of 40 MPH, and remain aloft for one hour while carrying 2 passengers."

The first ever US military aircraft was ordered. But US planes would see action before WW1.

In 1911, the Italians would begin outfitting a variety of aircraft types for reconnaissance, photo-recon, and bombing roles during the Italo-Turkish War. Captain Carlo Piazza made history overflying Turkish lines on the world's first aerial recon mission.

The Italians set another record that fall. Sottotenente (fancy Italian for a butterbar 2nd Lt) Giulio Gavotti dropped the 1st ever aerial bomb on Turkish troops in Libya.

The Turks set a record of their own: the first ever surface to air shoot down (by small arms-a rifle)

The US lagged behind prominent European powers in early aviation development

The US Army utilized the Curtiss JN-3 'Jenny' in its pursuit of Pancho Villa across the Mexican border in 1916. It was... a learning experience... for the fledgling air arm.

Pre-Trump "Wall" :)

Engine problems, navigation errors, and logistical deficiencies were laid bare during the 1st Aero Squadron's foray into Mexico with Gen "Blackjack" Pershing. Only 1 pilot, Lt Townsend Dodd, had ever flown at night. Oops..

One pilot was forced to make an emergency night


Lt Gorrell successfully landed his underpowered & crippled Jenny by moonlight, leaving it damaged and unflyable. He drew his 1911 .45 pistol and fled into the wilderness.

(He would trade his pistol and $8 in silver coins to make his way back to friendly forces)

So, as WW1 is raging in Europe and the Europeans are dueling in the skies: the US is barely able to clear the Sierra Madre mountains with the Jenny- despite having first invented the airplane.

The American "Lafayette Escadrille" flies French aircraft under French command

For tomorrow: We'll cover General Billy Mitchell- the guy who "predicted Pearl Harbor" and got court martialed for his clairvoyance. We'll also touch upon early photo-reconnaissance, the "interrupter gear" (how not to shoot the prop), and the return of balloons in WW1.

So let's talk early reconnaissance flying over the "No-Man's Land" in World War I.

WWI as most of you are familiar had given way from the bold Von Schlieffen plan to a gruesome stalemate and attrition-based human meat grinder. Mechanized small arms and artillery barrages

strategically placed to provide "defense in depth" ensured any ground taken would be costly- and it would be difficult to capitalize on breakouts through the enemy line.

The image here are spent artillery casings! Artillery was the #1 man-killer of the war..

Aerial photography of enemy trench positions would be crucial to inform ground commanders of how and where to best assault and capitalize upon a breakout in a salient. Further, unlike aerial observation using binoculars, a photograph could be analyzed at rear-echelons

unmolested by wind or vibration.

The French M.F.7 “longhorns” and M.F.11 “shorthorns” of French reconnaissance escadrilles (squadrons) utilized mounted cameras, either on large stabilizers or beneath the nose section of the aircraft (in the case of the “shorthorn.”)

One-way radio communication (in the form of a transmitter) on the aircraft permitted initial reconnaissance biplanes to perform artillery cooperation by 1915. Prior to this, dropped flares and written notes were used or.... landing at artillery sites to coordinate directly!

Two-way radio communication appeared only late in the war and was never commonly used for reconnaissance or artillery spotting- a shame.

(Those who laid miles of cable for ground forces to coordinate had a damned dangerous job, btw! They were a snipers favorite target..)

This is a two minute video showing the French MF11 Shorthorn Reconnaissance aircraft and very embryonic PED (processing, exploitation, and dissemination) of battlefield intelligence to field commanders: aerial photography.

Amazing mustaches!

Balloon spotting persisted into World War I even as the airplane began to render this technology obsolete. The German “Drachenballon” and French Caquot balloons were tethered several miles behind friendly front lines and could assist with artillery spotting and binocular

observation without the vibration and noise impeding transmission of intelligence to the respective command posts for action. However, their lack of mobility and placement behind friendly lines (to prevent them being used for artillery target practice) limited usefulness.

Fixed position balloons often trailed a telephone line to the ground, permitting the observer to pass information securely as well, with a field of view of approximately 15 miles depending upon weather and atmospherics.

Not bad, but not great.

More this afternoon/evening!

By April 1918 (very late in the war), the I Corps Observation Group (which had the 1st Aero Squadron- newly deployed from Columbus, New Mexico to Europe after chasing Pancho Villa) was finally in place and ready to commence independent American operations.

The utility was self-evident: ammunition dumps, expansion of roads, and long logistical networks advancing to established fronts all signaled upcoming offensives. Commanders could rely on photographs to contrast past and present imagery & determine likely enemy movements. /29
Vertical photographs of the areas were useful in the creation of maps-oblique photographs could be ordered to discover enemy fortification construction and shelters. Photographs of friendly positions offered a self-assessment of friendly vulnerabilities in position.

Photos for your perusal. (The oblique image shows the Hindenburg Line, taken from the air above German positions near Cambrai, in the Somme, and Arras, in the Nord Pas de Calais. Date unknown, probably March 1917)

Taken by RE Sapper Sergeant Alex Statters, British Army.

Anyone up for some World War II ISR History? I will be doing this without access to my home office repository, but confident it will still be a fascinating dive into the arcane and heroic...

The interwar years saw aerial reconnaissance languish as a mission type in comparison to the rhetoric of strategic bombardment. As investments in industry and technology led to rapidly advancing pursuit and bombardment aviation, technical progress was incremental in recon..

The RAF in 1939 established what would become No. 1 Photographic Reconnaissance Unit, formerly a civil unit at Heston Aerodrome. It’s predecessor, Heston Flight, was led by Australian inventor Sidney Cotton.

This dude was a fascinating.. larger than life character

Cotton’s social contacts included George Eastman of Kodak, Winston Churchill, and Ian Fleming- creator of James Bond.

We're going to chat about ol' George Eastman later (1950s/60s), btw.

Does this guy not look like a cross between Egon Spengler & FDR @thespybrief?


Cotton’s unit was contracted by MI-6 to conduct a variety of clandestine reconnaissance over Europe flying Lockheed A12s. By 1942, No. 1 PRU would outfit a variety of aircraft for the photographic reconnaissance mission including Supermarine Spitfires

Bristol Blenheims, and de Havilland Mosquitoes. The latter airframe would also come to great use as a pathfinder for Lancaster Bombers during night bombing missions over Germany. It even interrupted a Goring speech by BOMBING DURING the speech. Brits were spunky like that. /37
This is a great story of a dual role ISR/bomber aircraft actually. Hermann Goering was preparing to give a speech in January 1943, a celebration of the Nazi accession to power when the wooden Mosquito bombers flown by the RAF bombed Berlin. This daring daylight raid was

a success. Goering and indeed Nazi Germany was humiliated.

Goering: "It makes me furious when I see the Mosquito... I turn green and yellow with envy."

He continued, "The British, who can afford aluminum better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft..."
"that every piano factory over there is building. And give it a speed which they have now increased again. What do you make of that? They have the geniuses and we have the nincompoops!"

And he didn't even know about Bletchley Park ;)

As Cotton's No. 1 PRU made the contribution to RAF photo recon, the US centered aerial reconnaissance around the "F" series of platforms. Unlike WW1 ISR aircraft modified for pursuit and bombing roles, it was mature dedicated attack platforms during WW2 which

Colonel Karl Polifka would use the F-4 to some operational effect in SWPA over Rabaul under General George Kenney.

The name Polifka is today synonymous with a large auditorium in which modern Air Force Captains resist falling asleep during Squadron Officer School lectures. /43
The Casablanca Conference in 1943 led to the formation of Northwest African Photographic Reconnaissance Wing (NAPRW), a multinational composite organization tasked to promote unity of effort between the USAAF and RAF.

Who would command this unit?

Presidential nepotism (disputed) for the win... Lt Colonel Elliot Roosevelt, son of President Franklin Roosevelt took command of this ISR unit:) It operated F-4s and modified B-17Fs for mapping detachment duties.
Hey, Robert Todd Lincoln was U.S. Grant's adjutant, too...

Colonel Polifka would succeed Roosevelt in command of the wing in 1943, bringing his aggressive and well-regarded tactics, techniques, and procedures learned in the more austere SWPA. Techniques such as “dicing”, high-speed, low-altitude photographic passes above the target /46
and night “flash bombs” to capture imagery much like a traditional camera flash were developed.

Low-altitude photo passes would be used to great effect later. The Cuban Missile Crisis saw this in use after high-altitude U-2 imagery was used.

Related: Name this aviator: /47
Over the course of NAPRW operations, Colonel Roosevelt decided the F-series as developed by the USAAF, to include the later F-5, another P-38 modification, were inferior to the British Mosquito.

Damned questionable assertion.

His lobbying to procure the Mosquito (designated F-8 by the USAAF) would lead directly to Hughes Aircraft offering the XF-11 and subsequent Congressional hearings over technical and company mismanagement of the program.

Both Hughes & Roosevelt would later be cleared of wrongdoing by Congressional investigations. The XF-11 was popularized in the 2006 film “The Aviator”- it depicts Howard Hughes fiery crash in July 1946 of one of the only flying prototypes of the aircraft
2004 film* not 2006.

This harrowing crash left Hughes badly wounded and damaged two houses in Beverly Hills. The cause? A hard yaw caused by a reversing propeller on the right engine (each engine contained contra rotating 8-bladed props.)

A brief interlude into ISR Analysis and Planning in WW2, then we'll chat about SIGINT and ULTRA ( @thespybrief favorite) tomorrow- before tying it all together in order to "get" Adm Yamamoto in Operation VENGEANCE.

Other WW2 topics I would be happy to discuss following that.

Over the course of World War II, scientific approaches to aerial ISR began taking shape as technology matured. The RAF adopted a three-phase approach to interpretation and analysis. These phases were broken down along the time-sensitive nature of the targets under analysis /53
phase 1 required immediate response, the second phase for 24-hour handling, and the third phase for long-term analysis. These phases could see more interdiction-based target development for phase 2 such as massing of troops or materiel, while phase 3 analysis would involve /54
strategically important industrial target development, often passed to the various bomber commands for action (with uhhh bombs. Duh). Specialties emerged such as radar photography, infrared filming, and bomb damage assessment, the latter of which would be vital

to post-war Strategic Bombing Surveys by allied air forces. Modern Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Division (ISRD) structure within some combatant commands similarly reflects history.

I will not bore you with those details. But history informs modern ops! /56
So let's talk about arguably the most strategically significant development in WW2, and how it ties in with ISR: the intelligence superiority given to the Allies by intercepting and deciphering German and Japanese ‘Top Secret’ communications.

The impact was enormous.

The cryptographic intelligence which was disseminated to Allied commanders from deciphered German communications was code-named “ULTRA” because it was considered more important than even the highest British category then in use: “Most Secret."

Government Code & Cipher School (GC & CS) at Bletchley Park in the United Kingdom leveraged the talent of luminaries such as Alan Turing to achieve ULTRA, and was regarded by General Dwight Eisenhower as decisive in affecting the war’s outcome.

ULTRA intelligence was predominantly signals intelligence, or SIGINT, derived from reading radio messages which had been encrypted with a cipher machine, particularly the renowned Enigma machine. Further, traffic analysis- a practice of

removing the anonymity of network transmissions, and direction finding proved crucial in facilitating the deciphering of German codes. The Enigma itself was an electro-mechanical rotor cipher machine widely in use by the 1930s with the German Reichswehr, Army, Luftwaffe, Navy /61
and Gestapo. Some variants existed between machines issued to these departments. While first broken in 1932 by noteworthy cryptologists at the Polish Cipher Bureau, in 1939 this effort would be handed off to the British

as Germany had made sophisticated modifications. However, without the early and ongoing contribution of the Polish Cipher Bureau, ULTRA would never have been possible.

Unsung heroes in the endeavor, @thespybrief

Enigma depicted here:

A similar line of effort to decrypt Japanese communications. The Japanese system differed from the German Enigma in that it utilized electrical stepping switches in lieu of the rotary cipher.

This machine was named “Purple” by the U.S. and the disseminated intelligence, once the codes were broken by the U.S. Army Signals Intelligence Service, referred to as “Magic.” .” Fleet communications code systems in use by the Imperial Japanese Navy, code-named JN-25,

were approximately 20% cracked by U.S. Naval cryptologists by April 1942 and led directly to advanced knowledge of Japanese naval movements immediately preceding the decisive Battle of Midway.

This was most recently popularized again in the 2019 blockbuster film "Midway." /66
Generals Douglas MacArthur and George Kenney in the Southwest Pacific Theater benefited by the intercept of Japanese communications in his vast area of responsibility. While installation of radars, combined with coastal watchers, provided early warnings of impending Japanese /67
air raids- there is no doubt ULTRA signals intelligence was of even greater utility. Actual collection of Japanese communications took place at forward intercept sites throughout the Solomon Islands. These isolated outposts used highly trained personnel to scan known

frequencies for message traffic, which was then sent to Central Bureau. Central Bureau was an Allied intelligence entity formed shortly after General MacArthur had evacuated from the Philippines to Australia in April 1942.

"I shall return."

The messages were translated into clear text and decoded, translated into English, and delivered to Intelligence Division at MacArthur’s headquarters. Correlating derived data with efforts from coastal watchers and D/F or direction finding

radio intercept units permitted General George Kenney time to mount effective air defenses. By July 1942, some SWPA field units were given seven hours of advanced warning of an air raid from Rabaul, compared to only 30 minutes warning from radar or coastal watching!

For tomorrow:

We’ll tie this all together for Operation VENGEANCE.

Trivia corner:

Who is this and why am a tweeting his picture here?

( @thespybrief- no hints for the normies!)
Back after a long hiatus, and time to connect airpower to actionable SIGINT in Operation VENGEANCE: the shoot-down of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, chief architect of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The deciphering of JN-25 led directly to this operation.

Japan was reeling from disaster in the Guadalcanal Campaign in early 1943. Admiral Yamamoto planned to inspect air units in the Solomon Islands and New Guinea participating in Operation I-Go and wished to shore up morale in the theater. U.S. naval intelligence efforts

under “Magic” intercepted Japanese bulletins alerting their units of the coming Yamamoto tour on April 14, 1943, setting in motion planning for VENGEANCE. Interestingly, among the U.S. naval cryptologists assigned to decipher the JN-25D traffic was...

future U.S. Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens. The intercepted messages were incredibly detailed, complete with time and locations of Yamamoto's itinerary, as well as the number and types of planes that would transport and accompany him on his tour from Rabaul

to Balalae Airfield in the Solomon Islands. Armed with such detailed intelligence, American planners were able to select 18 P-38s, one with customized navigation equipment and all with larger 330-gallon fuel tanks in order to make the intercept to shoot down Yamamoto.

A later clash of historical accounts occurred between the two USAAF pilots who claimed to have shot down Yamamoto's plane ensued. Lt. Rex Barber is now more widely accepted as the ace who scored the kill on Yamamoto's aircraft, sending it into the jungle below (it's still there)
If you are interested in this topic, there are incredible public sources on the key actors and the intelligence. Clearly US Navy officers Joseph Rochefort, Edwin Layton, and the members of the 339th Fighter Squadron feature prominently here.


Modern relevance?


The use of all-source intelligence, including SIGINT, to confirm the “Five Ws” of who, what, when, where, and why permits high-value targets to be removed from the modern battlefield as well.

Operation VENGEANCE offers a historical precedent to modern uses of intel, SOF, and airpower. Examples: F-16s, RPAs, or a Special Operations team raids such as the 2006 Zarqawi strike or Bin Laden 2011 operation (Op NEPTUNE SPEAR).

All for tonight. Cheers!

Ok, all- as promised, some more ISR history. This with a Space flavor as we usher in the newly minted US Space Force.

Among the most unsung stories of the Cold War ISR successes is the development of surveillance satellites while the public was enthralled with

early Mercury and Gemini manned space programs. U.S. photographic reconnaissance satellites were among the crown jewels of the American intelligence community capabilities throughout the Cold War, shrouded in secrecy. The CORONA program was only declassified in 1995!

This allowed a more complete understanding of the achievements of the Air Force, National Reconnaissance Office, and intelligence community partnership- & how strategic deterrence succeeded at a time when World War III seemed just around the corner. The incredible pioneering /84
efforts of early CORONA personnel were finally recognized in the 1998 book “Eye in the Sky: The Story of the Corona Spy Satellites” edited by Dwayne A. Day, John M. Logs-Don, and Brian Latell.

I cannot recommend this book enough.

cc: @thespybrief

Some strategic context on how impactful CORONA was to global stability and US national security seems in order.

Just over a year prior to his announcement he would not seek another term as President following the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, Lyndon Johnson addressed /86
space expenditures through the lens of intelligence impacts on national strategy: “I wouldn’t want to be quoted on this but we’ve spent 35 or 40 billion dollars on the space program. And if nothing else had come out of it except the knowledge we’ve gained from space..."

"...photography, it would be worth 10 times what the whole program has cost. Because tonight we know how many missiles the enemy has and, it turned out, our guesses were way off. We were doing things we didn’t need to do. . We were building things we didn’t need to..." /88
"...build. We were harboring fears we didn’t need to harbor. Because of satellites, I know how many missiles the enemy has.”

Pretty high praise from an American President. Beans, bullets, ploughshares, swords... economy of force. Vital strategic decisions need truth data /89
Several factors in the 1950s led to the development of space-based ISR. The strategic situation, a desire to avoid a “nuclear Pearl Harbor” drove planners across the newly formed Department of Defense and the rapidly expanding U.S. intelligence community.

Unlike drawdowns after previous wars, the “military-industrial complex” at the end of World War II never fully went away- such was the concern about the intentions and capabilities of the Soviet Union, and the lasting legacy of the “Pearl Harbor” surprise attack. /91
Secondly, extremely high-altitude ISR- in platforms such as the U-2, were in use but increasingly vulnerable to advancing Soviet anti-air technology. The 1961 shootdown of Francis Gary Powers by a SA-2 provide the most pronounced example of this, @Beatrix_1_Kiddo. /92
Finally, rocketry had matured to a level possible to reach space with Sputnik in 1957 followed by Explorer I in 58.

Rockets carry payloads. If you all were paying attention to early airpower history on this thread: Payloads can make things go click, or make things go boom. /93
Winston Churchill’s characterization of the USSR as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma” also serves to highlight the challenge facing American strategy in the 1950s. The National Security Act of 1947 established not only the U.S. Air Force /94
but the Central Intelligence Agency as well. These institutions at the time of their inception were focused on one predominant threat actor in mind: The USSR. Soviet detonation of Joe-1, its first atomic bomb, in 1949 and its successful ICBM test in August 1957

were key events driving U.S. policy in pursuit of ISR capable of assessing true Soviet capabilities and intentions.

Open Skies (the treaty many of you have heard about in recent news) traces its origins here as well.

Prisoner's Dilemmas abound, no?

President Eisenhower determined in the fall of 1954 that the Science Advisory Committee of the Office of Defense Mobilization shld begin the study of potential surprise attack. The President of MIT, James Killian was selected to head the cmte (shown here w/flux capacitor) /97
which produced a report titled “Meeting the Threat of Surprise Attack.” It was during the consultations as this later know “Killian Report” was being drafted that significant high-altitude ISR initiatives were formed.

You can follow @LFredenhall.
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