Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence
The Committee would be grateful for a memorandum
on ISTAR which addresses the following questions:
Current ISTAR capability
Which equipment programmes provide
or support current ISTAR capability? The Committee would be grateful
for a list of these equipment programmes.
What is the cost (acquisition
and support costs) of the equipment programmes which provide or
support current ISTAR capability?
How do the various equipment
programmes which provide or support current ISTAR capability contribute
to the achievement of Network Enabled Capability?
How are the equipment programmes
which provide or support current ISTAR capability, and the outputs
from them, integrated? How is the various information from ISTAR
assets pulled together?
Where does the output from ISTAR
assets goat the Strategic, Operational and Tactical levels?
How does the MoD assess the
operational benefits of ISTAR?
How does the UK integrate /
co-operate with its key allies with regard to ISTAR?
Future ISTAR capability
What is the MoD's future plans
relating to improving ISTAR capability? The Committee would be
grateful for a list of the programmes in the Equipment Programme
which are to provide or support future ISTAR capability.
Which of these programmes are
priority programmes for improving ISTAR capability?
What is likely to be the future
role of UAVs in relation to ISTAR?
ISTAR is a key military capability that generates
and delivers specific information and intelligence
to decision makers at all levels in support of the planning and
conduct of operations. The ability to convert information into
intelligence that decision makers can act upon is a crucial aspect
of the capability. ISTAR can be characterised as the co-ordinated
direction, collection, processing and dissemination of timely,
accurate, relevant and reliable information and intelligence.
This process is of course fundamental to Network Enabled Capability
and specifically, for example, to targeting and the integration
of military effects, situational awareness (and hence Combat Identification
and the minimisation of the risk of fratricide) and force protection.
Complex terrain and agile adversaries, for example, increase the
requirement for capable ISTAR.
ISTAR capability can be generated at all levels
of military operations. At the lowest tactical level it consists
of individuals using their eyes and reporting what they can see,
so equipping them with binoculars and a radio can significantly
improve capability. At the strategic level it involves the collection
and analysis of a complex range of information from maritime,
land, air and space-based platforms. Low level tactical ISTAR
assets (for example, thermal imagers) are organic to maritime,
land and air formations where ISTAR is secondary to other functions
such as targeting. This Memorandum focuses on the dedicated capability
and assets employed to provide ISTAR at higher levels of command
and those tactical assets with a primary ISTAR function.
CURRENT ISTAR CAPABILITY
The Armed Forces have available to them a wide
range of ISTAR capability covering all operating environments,
although each capability is not necessarily constrained to operate
exclusively in a single environment. Output from ISTAR is of course
used extensively in Joint operations. Current capability can be
broken down into the following broad categories and in each one
the main equipment systems involved are identified.
The Fylingdales site provides early warning
of ballistic missile threats to the UK and is an integral part
of the US global early warning network. It also supports UK monitoring
Manned airborne electronic surveillance is currently
provided by the Nimrod R1 system. This provides flexible and effective
signals intelligence gathering and reconnaissance capability to
support operational commanders' campaign plans and to prosecute
specific targets. A similar and complementary collection capability
is mounted on Royal Navy warships, both surface (COBLU) and sub
surface (Eddystone). Land-based systems can also contribute but
primarily operate at the tactical level (see below).
A national capability to provide a strategic
to tactical level mapping and digital geographic information and
imagery derived intelligence to UK forces is pursued under the
Picasso programme. This programme is an important component of
the UK-US strategic relationship and collaborative intelligence
For the production and dissemination of military
intelligence required for strategic assessment, policy-making,
strategic and operational level campaign planning, and as a key
input to targeting planning, the UK contributes to and exploits
a US classified intelligence database.
As well as a mix of Type 93 and 101 air defence
ground based radars in the UK, a deployable surveillance of airspace
capability is provided by the Sentry E3D Airborne Early Warning
and Control system. This has the ability to co-ordinate UK and
coalition air operations and to direct forces during operations.
The Sea King Mk 7 Airborne Surveillance and
Control (SKASaC) helicopter system can operate off naval platforms
or the land and provides air and surface surveillance using a
mix of electronic, radar and electro-optic sensors.
Long range ground surveillance is provided by
the Raptor reconnaissance pod system for Tornado GR4. It provides
a medium level, high resolution, long stand-off capability using
electro-optical and infra-red sensors with the ability to display
images in the cockpit and to transmit these in near real time
via a data-link to a ground station for analysis.
For land forces electronic surveillance is provided
by the Scarus man-portable system and the vehicle mounted INCE
and Odette systems. Radar surveillance and target acquisition
is provided by the MSTAR man-portable lightweight battlefield
Limited range full motion video surveillance
is provided by the Phoenix tactical Unmanned Air Vehicle (UAV)
system. Originally designed for operations in central Europe,
it has not proved suitable for supporting ongoing operations in
the more demanding climatic and geographical conditions in Iraq
ISTAR support to the protection of deployed
operating bases in Iraq and Afghanistan is currently met by a
mix of visual and electronic surveillance systems often re-deployed
from Northern Ireland, supplemented by improved CCTV and lighting.
Urgent Operational Requirements (UORs)
In addition to in-service ISTAR systems, a number
of additional capabilities have been provided as Urgent Operational
Requirements (UORs) over recent years to address specific capability
gaps in current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of these
have delivered improvements to in-service capability; others have
involved the bringing forward of capability originally planned
for delivery in later years. For the period 2003-07 the emphasis
has been on improving the ability to collect ISTAR against an
increasingly agile and ISTAR-aware adversary. The main examples
of ISTAR UORs are shown below:
Reaper is a long-endurance UAV system providing
wide-area all-weather capability in the Afghanistan theatre using
electro-optical full motion video and radar sensors. Pre-programmed
missions can be flown or the air vehicle can be piloted by datalink.
At the tactical level, accurate, timely and
high-quality electro-optical and infra-red imagery is provided
in both theatres under a service provision contract with Thales
UK using the Hermes 450 UAV system.
The Desert Hawk mini-UAV short range, short
endurance system provides a similar capability in direct support
to deployed sub units.
Remote video mobile ground terminals allow ISTAR
data to be fed directly to deployed ground forces in theatre.
The Remote Optical Video Enhanced Receiver (ROVER) III system
provides a man-portable feed from a range of UK and coalition
full motion video collection platforms to support tactical deployments
and operations. It provides deployed ground forces with the ability
to improve their situational awareness and force protection.
To improve the current deployed operating base
protection capability, new systems have been provided in Iraq
and Afghanistan using mast and aerostat-mounted visual and electronic
Cost of current ISTAR capability
The acquisition costs of the in-service ISTAR
equipment covered by this Memorandum are estimated at £1.6
billion. This figure is derived from historical data and includes
costs for equipment that in some cases has been in service for
a considerable period. The projected cost of supporting the equipment
providing current capability is estimated at £970 million
over the next 10 years.
CURRENT ISTAR PROCESSES
Conceptually, ISTAR is delivered through two
distinct but inter-related capability areas. The collection side
aims to provide capabilities that can gather accurate and timely
information across the environments and can detect, track, and
identify enemy, neutral and friendly entities within a defined
area, day and night, and in all weathers. The direction, processing
and dissemination side aims to provide capabilities that can direct
collection effort and then process and disseminate derived information
and intelligence to all levels in national and coalition operations.
Currently, considerable effort is needed to draw together the
output from collection and analysis systems which tend to focus
on specific sources or types of intelligence types and then to
disseminate a useful product to users at all levels. Current systems
used for this include Joint Operational Command System (JOCS)
and other systems dedicated to handling highly classified material.
The output from ISTAR assets is a key input
to the planning and execution of operations at all levels and,
by improving situational awareness, provides commanders with an
increased range of options. The principal users at the strategic
level are the Joint Intelligence Committee, the Chiefs of Staff,
Defence Intelligence and key allies. At the operational level
it is the Chief of Joint Operations and intelligence staff at
PJHQ and in deployed higher formation national and coalition HQs.
At the tactical level it is brigade and battlegroup commanders
and the intelligence staff in brigade and battlegroup (or equivalent)
HQs and coalition formations. At all levels, ISTAR output will
be exploited by a wide range of capabilities, but this is often
as a fused product and not as raw information.
The operational benefits of ISTAR are continually
reviewed through a series of formal assessments and informal feedback.
Formal ISTAR capability audits are conducted at two yearly intervals
as part of MoD capability planning against requirements set out
in Defence Strategic Guidance, and are used to inform rebalancing
of the Department's Equipment Plan. This complements the detailed
operational analysis that supports submission to the approving
authorities for each programme and is used to determine the capability
to be delivered by DE&S. In addition, feedback is regularly
received from operational theatres through visit reports, post-deployment
reports and Directorate of Operational Capability audits to inform
refinement of forward plans and when necessary to identify requirements
The UK has made considerable efforts to co-operate
with key allies at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
This delivers significant benefit as, in some scenarios, much
of the ISTAR output exploited by UK commanders may have been collected
and/or analysed by key allies. Similarly, key allies gain significant
benefit from the ISTAR output generated from UK ISTAR collection
and/or analytical capability. At the strategic level, UK contributes
to a number of collaborative intelligence programmes with key
allies that maximise the benefits derived from high value collection
and analysis capabilities. This includes the sharing of R&D
and the development of common data and technical standards. As
improved communications capabilities are delivered, the outputs
of collaborative programmes are increasingly being exploited at
the operational and tactical levels. Benefit is also derived from
participation in a variety of international fora, including:
The Interoperability Commission
(IOC). The IOC is the key UK-US senior official level bilateral
forum that addresses operational and technical interoperability.
Fourteen UK-US "tiger teams" meet regularly to progress
interoperability across the whole C4ISTAR (C4 = Command, Control,
Communications and Computers) domain;
NATO. NATO has a full
sub-committee structure under the NATO C3 Board that covers all
aspects of C4ISTAR;
Bilateral Meetings. These
include for example meetings with Australia to progress pan-environment
National Armaments Directors
(NADs). The NADs of France, Germany, Italy, UK and the United
States) supervise a number of working groups which address C4ISTAR
issues including research and technology projects and future UAV
FUTURE ISTAR CAPABILTY
The current ISTAR programme provides a number
of capable collection and analysis capabilities that tend to focus
on specific sources or intelligence types and relying on a variety
of existing systems and processes to disseminate intelligence
and information to all levels. The main issue is that, in general
terms, there are sufficient dedicated collection capabilities
in service or due to be delivered but that direction, processing
and dissemination improvements are needed to exploit current and
planned collection capabilities more effectively, to enable more
timely satisfaction of critical information requirements and to
assist the implementation of NEC. In principle, all ISTAR systems
contribute to NEC but the full potential of ISTAR as a capability
will not be realised until NEC is mature. The emphasis of current
and future ISTAR development is therefore on improving the way
the collection of information and intelligence is directed and
the resulting data processed and disseminated. This emphasis is
reflected in the following discussion of future equipment capability
Future ISTAR capability equipment programmes
The Department has plans to address the recognised
shortfalls in the direction, processing and dissemination elements
of the intelligence cycle and to improve the persistence, reach
and accuracy of dedicated ISTAR collection capabilities. These
plans are being closely co-ordinated with the programme to modernise
Defence Intelligence operations which is addressing wider improvement
in the handling of all forms of intelligence. The main dedicated
new ISTAR programmes involved are described below.
DABINETT is an incremental programme that will
improve the coherence and networking of ISTAR across Defence to
provide actionable information and intelligence at all levels.
It is expected to include a combination of existing and future
platforms and sensors, support centres and links to intelligence
systems. It is about to enter the assessment phase. Delivery is
expected to be through a range of separate but coherent projects.
The programme has two main objectives: improvements to the direction,
processing and dissemination of intelligence and information;
and improving deep and persistent collection capability. The latter
may be partially met by retaining the Reaper capability acquired
to meet operational requirements in Afghanistan.
ASTOR (Airborne Stand-off Radar) addresses requirements
for surveillance, reconnaissance & target acquisition information
on moving, stationary & fixed targets in the land environment.
The system, based on business jet aircraft, provides a joint,
near real time, 24hr and all-weather Synthetic Aperture Radar
and Moving Target Indicator capability. It is currently due to
come into service by the end of 2008.
The UK WATCHKEEPER UAV system will provide UK
commanders, primarily at brigade but also at battlegroup level,
with accurate, timely and high quality information including imagery,
using electro-optical and Synthetic Aperture Radar and Moving
Target Indicator sensors. The air vehicle is based on the Hermes
450 but WATCHKEEPER will be fully integrated into the wider command
and control network. The capability will begin to be delivered
from the end of the decade.
Project EAGLE aims to sustain and upgrade the
UK Airborne Early Warning capability provided by the Sentry E-3D.
It will enable Sentry E3D to perform more effectively as an Airborne
Early Warning and Control (AWACS) platform, managing the air battle
across the range of operations with maximum interoperability with
NATO allies. The project is currently in the assessment phase.
HELIX aims to sustain and upgrade the UK's dedicated
airborne electronic surveillance capability against an evolving
and increasingly complex target set out to 2025, replacing the
capability currently provided by the NIMROD R1. The programme
is currently in the assessment phase.
SOOTHSAYER is an integrated vehicle-mounted
Land Electronic Warfare (EW) System in the demonstration and manufacture
stage. It replaces and enhances the Odette and Ince systems and
will begin to enter service towards the end of the decade. SHAMAN
is a broadly equivalent system for naval platforms and is currently
in the assessment phase.
URBAN and REAR ISTAR aims to provide a coherent
and integrated urban and rear area ISTAR surveillance capability
through the networking of ISTAR sensors and platforms to enable
the Land commander to conduct ISTAR within these complex environments.
It will also improve protection of deployed operating bases, releasing
key manpower from surveillance tasks and enhancing force protection.
It is currently at the early concept stage.
DABINETT is the highest priority ISTAR programme
because of the improvements it will bring to the way information
and intelligence is directed, processed and disseminated, thereby
improving the coherent exploitation of the increasingly capable
collection assets and enabling NEC. Success is closely related
to maintaining coherence with other programmes particularly those
which support the programme to modernise Defence Intelligence
operations such as Defence Information Infrastructure (DII) (particularly
the above-secret elements of the programme), Picasso and the Joint
Command and Control System Programme (JC2SP).
Other priorities include upgrading the UK air
defence ground based radar system, sustaining the electronic warfare
database, electronic and wide area surveillance, how to meet the
demands of time sensitive targeting and the implementation of
robust procedures to exploit the new UAV capabilities. We also
need to remain interoperable with the US while improving interoperability
with other allies and ensure that we coordinate with other Government
departments that have an interest in ISTAR capability, for example
Role of UAVs
ISTAR collection requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan
are being delivered through a layered approach using manned and
unmanned platforms. This is seen as the model for the future.
The manned capabilities (provided on current operations by for
example the Nimrod R1, Nimrod MR2 and surveillance helicopters)
provide variously point target, strategic and tactical ISTAR.
The long loiter, deep and persistent requirement for ISTAR is
increasingly being met through UAVs equipped with Full Motion
Video (FMV) and in some cases radar and other sensors operating
in three layers. These can be illustrated for the land environment
At this level there is a requirement for long range, long loiter
systems to provide ISTAR in real time in order to assist decision
making, improve situational awareness and support targeting. They
can fulfil roles such as border surveillance. At this level, support
to deployed formations is likely to be indirect in nature. The
need to provide control over a large geographic area and provide
product to dispersed locations, including strategic feed back
to UK, means that such systems require a beyond line of sight
communications capability. On current operations, the Reaper UAV
system acquired under UOR arrangements is providing capability.
Level. At this level the requirement is for a UAV capability
controlled by and in direct support of brigade level operations.
Typical tasks include: pattern of life monitoring prior to specific
operations; find/track surveillance of tactical high priority
targets; provision of guaranteed continuous coverage of operations;
force protection to convoys; and Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
searches along supply routes. On current operations, the capability
is provided as service by Thales UK using the Hermes 450 UAV system
under UOR arrangements. WATCHKEEPER will fulfil a similar role.
Lower Tactical Level.
At this level, company and battlegroup level units require the
ability to deploy rapidly a locally controlled ISTAR system to
gain situational awareness relevant to an immediate localised
threat or individual engagement. The very rapid response required,
as well as the short range of these operations, means that a UAV,
controlled at the lowest level in direct support of troops in
contact is typically best suited to meet the requirement. On current
operations the Desert Hawk min-UAV system acquired under UOR arrangements
is providing capability.
The layered approach ensures that products that
support decision making, situational awareness and targeting are
provided directly to each level within the chain of command. This
also allows sensible investment and the achievement of value for
money by matching capability to requirement. While the varied
needs of each level of command could be met by a single platform
type, the capability would need to be driven by the most demanding
requirement (long range, long persistence, very capable sensors).
This could lead to disproportionate cost, delayed timelines and,
at lower levels, excessive capability.
19 February 2008
1 Information is unprocessed data of every description
which may be used in the production of intelligence. Intelligence
is the product resulting from the processing of information concerning
for example threats or areas of actual or potential operations.
The term is also applied to the activity which results in the
product and to organisations engaged in such activity. Back
HCDC Inquiry-Defence Equipment-MoD Memorandum Q15 submitted on
23 January 2008. The networks, systems and applications that allow
intelligence and information to be processed and disseminated
are critical to successful ISTAR. Back