Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Research Articles

  • Information Warfare Rising (Part III) Building an Information Warfare Culture: Accelerating Change Through Training

    Captain Reid “HOJO” Hottel

    The United States Air Force remains unrivaled in its kinetic core competencies: Air and Space Superiority, Global Attack, Rapid Global Mobility, Precision Engagement, and Agile Combat Support. This dominance has been established for so long that no currently serving Airman has experienced an Air Force where it has not been assumed without second thought. However, as recent actions by our adversaries during the 2016 U.S. elections and beyond have highlighted, our non-kinetic core competency of Information Superiority is highly contested, and it is where we are currently being outcompeted.

  • Information Warfare Rising (Part II): Conceptualizing Information Firepower

    Captain Thomas Jun Hong

    Information is one of the key essential elements to win in a future all-domain battlespace. Nevertheless, the discourse on Joint All Domain Operations (JADO) has been limited to identifying the importance of information and offering salient solutions to alleviate a few select symptoms. There is no consolidated framework with which to evaluate the Joint Force’s information advantage or to design its future. This paper proposes the concept of information firepower as such framework and will demonstrate how the concept supports the requirements in doctrine and RAND study findings.

  • Information Warfare Rising (Part I): Characterizing Threats in the Information Environment

    Captain Katelynne Baier

    Information Advantage (IA) within the information environment (IE) is one of the most critical focal points of Joint All Domain Operations (JADO)i. China and Russia recognize this and are prioritizing Information Warfare (IW) to counter US strengths and military might. These adversaries are focusing on effects in the information environment, specifically the information and cognitive dimensions with physical actions to support, posing a direct threat to US, allied, and partner forcesii iii. Identifying and characterizing threats to JADO in the information environment is a difficult process. How do we evaluate adversary capabilities, intent, and historical actions to create adversary courses of action? How do we identify these threats at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels? This paper will propose a new comprehensive analytical framework for IW specialties within the Air Force to holistically evaluate threats in the information environment at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

  • Intelligence Support to Joint All Domain Command and Control Network Vulnerabilities

    Captain Natalie L. Howie

    This Air University Advanced Research paper focuses on intelligence support to units employing Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) networks that are exposed to an adversary’s non-lethally employed exploitation effects in contested environments. A 2020 RAND corporation study defines JADC2 as “connecting distributed sensors, shooters and data from and in all domains to all forces to enable distributed mission command at the scale, tempo, and level to accomplish commander’s intent - agnostic to domains, platforms, and functional lanes”.1 Non-lethally employed effects are those identified as executed through cyber, space, influence operations, and/or electronic warfare enabled methods to deny, degrade, disrupt, destroy and/or manipulate the data integrity or function of forward deployed devices. The current JADC2 network employed in contested environments potentially leaves communications equipment vulnerable to adversary exploitation means, and/or subjects mission data traversing the network to exposure. This paper highlights requirements for: 1) centralized databasing of adversary non-lethal threats (both assessed and confirmed capabilities or methods), 2) compiled threat trend analysis reporting based on threats observed, 3) advanced research conducted on intelligence gaps present in intelligence requirement(s) submitted by supported units (threat database relevance maintained), and 4) use of the intelligence threat data acquired to implement technical solutions, mitigation techniques, and/or changes to how equipment and connections are established in contested environments.


    Captain Michael C. Mastalski

    Russia, through the years, has been perfecting and implementing Hybrid Warfare on their adversaries. This paper will identify commonalities between Russia’s engagements with Estonia, Georgia, and Crimea. Russia’s hybrid warfare strategies are broken down into three characteristics; economize the use of force, persistence, population-centric. And three typical objectives; capture territory without conventional forces, create a pretext for conventional military action, and hybrid measures to influence politics and policies. Estonia, Georgia, and Crimea all experienced Russia’s hybrid mix of cyber and information warfare, while Georgia and Crimea saw it escalate to conventional military action. These actions are persistent with gaining experience to apply methods on Western governments, specifically the U.S.

  • NATO’s Strategic Deficit

    Captain Ronald Malloy

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has a diversity of missions: from combating a refugee crisis to fighting the battle on terrorism. Additionally, NATO has gained 18 countries to its ranks since 1949, expanding organizational interests. The past decade has been tumultuous for NATO. The 2008-2009 banking collapse, failures in Syria and the subsequent refugee crisis, and Russia’s annexation have all tested NATO’s resilience. In the complexity of today’s environment, it can be easy to forget why NATO was formed in the first place. NATO was birthed with the sole mission to halt Soviet Union aggression. This paper argues why NATO should return to its origins and firmly commit to Russian deterrence and de-escalation.

  • The Russian Anti-Access/Area Denial Security Issue over Kaliningrad and the Baltics

    Captain Daniel Ince

    With the increase of Russian aggression in Ukraine in 2014 and the lessons learned that have stemmed from that conflict, North American Treaty Organization (NATO) leaders have become more concerned about a Russian incursion into the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia and the anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) capabilities that Russia could bring to that conflict. Shortly after Russia’s incursion into Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, tensions have increased in the Baltic region. Coupled with Russia’s naval incursions into NATO-ally territorial waters, aggressive air maneuvers, and exercises, Russia has increased its military presence in the Baltics with “state-of-the-art missile systems” that are designed to prevent NATO air, ground, and naval forces from supporting the Latvian, Lithuanian, and Estonian militaries in a conflict with Russia.


    Captain Josiah Cline

    In order for the United States (US) to maintain supremacy in all domains of warfare and outpace Russian efforts in Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2), the US must prioritize vertical procurement processes in acquisition, but horizontal implementation and employment of military efforts within its democratic government to prioritize and ensure interoperability amongst all within the Department of Defense (DoD).


    Captain Rick Rutter

    Putin’s Russia breathed new life in the NATO alliance and encouraged introspection on the part of NATO’s members. This paper investigates the organizational structure of the alliance and whether it advances or hinders its ability to compete and defeat Russia in conflict. NATO’s collective decision-making process affect response times, but the alliance’s “strength in numbers” garners the resources to counter and defeat Russia. In contrast to the NATO alliance with 30 members, Russia often operates alone on the world stage. Russia’s lack of allies constrains its operations and presents different challenges than what individual member states face in NATO. Russia’s sees the value of alliances and is working to overcome its isolation after 30 years of going it alone.

  • But Like…What Did It DO?: Assessing Russian Cyber Effects in Context

    Captain Patrick "HOWLER" Meissner

    In the context of the National Security Strategy’s conception of “great power competition” (Trump 2017), perhaps no nation-state has been as aggressive within the cyberspace domain as the Russian Federation. Furthermore, following two Russian campaigns to seize portions of Ukraine and Georgia’s sovereign territory, the question may not be if, but when will Vladimir Putin choose to annex another neighbor’s land. The Baltic states, for example, have received much of the same pre-crisis attention from Russia that Ukraine and Georgia did, and their annexation would further Putin’s apparent strategic goal to re-establish buffer states between Russia and NATO (Galeotti 2019). An escalatory crisis scenario in the Baltics will most likely follow the pattern exhibited in both Georgia and Ukraine. Building on pre-existing divisions within a region, such as between Russian-speaking minorities and the central government, Russia will utilize both real and imagined incidents to further increase tension. As the tensions escalate and inevitably erupt in violence, Russia will seize the opportunity to maneuver ground forces onto key terrain. These maneuvers will be simultaneously denied, misattributed to local ‘patriots’ and claimed as mere ‘peacekeeping’ forces meant to protect Russian speaking minority groups. Then, with their strategic end state all but achieved, Russian leadership will call for peace and diplomacy. This sequence of operations appears to be Vladimir Putin’s playbook to rebuild the Soviet era buffer states and ‘Sphere of Influence’ in eastern Europe (Cunningham 2020). Given that Russian cyber capabilities have demonstrably created strategic advantage via the information domain, tactical advantage by exploiting network-centric nature of adversaries, and operational advantage by creating asymmetric opportunities for conventional force maneuvers, US commanders and planners must be
    prepared to contest the information domain, fight in a degraded information environment, and train both with and against realistic, meaningful cyber effects to prevail in future conflicts.