Intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance
ISTAR stands for intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance. In its macroscopic sense, ISTAR is a practice that links several battlefield functions together to assist a combat force in employing its sensors and managing the information they gather.
Information is collected on the battlefield through systematic observation by deployed soldiers and a variety of electronic sensors. Surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance are methods of obtaining this information. The information is then passed to intelligence personnel for analysis, and then to the commander and his staff for the formulation of battle plans. Intelligence is processed information that is relevant and contributes to an understanding of the ground, and of enemy dispositions and intents.
ISTAR is the process of integrating the intelligence process with surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance tasks in order to improve a commander's situational awareness and consequently their decision making. The inclusion of the "I" is important as it recognizes the importance of taking the information from all the sensors and processing it into useful knowledge.
ISTAR can also refer to:
- a unit or sub unit with ISTAR as a task (e.g.: an ISTAR squadron)
- equipment required to support the task
Variations of ISTAR
There are several variations on the "ISTAR" acronym. Some variations reflect specific emphasis on certain aspects of ISTAR.
STAR (Surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance)
A term used when emphasis is to be placed on the sensing component of ISTAR.
RSTA (Reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition)
A term used by the US Army in place of STAR or ISTAR. Also, a term used to identify certain US Army units: for instance, 3rd Squadron, 153rd RSTA. These units serve a similar role to the below mentioned US Marine Corps STA platoons, but on a larger scale.
STA (Surveillance and target acquisition)
Used to designate one of the following:
- A US Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) - specifically a STA sniper
- The role of a unit (e.g. STA patrol) or equipment (artillery STA)
- A doctrine similar to ISTAR.
ISR (Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance)
ISR is the coordinated and integrated acquisition, processing and provision of timely, accurate, relevant, coherent and assured information and intelligence to support commander's conduct of activities. Land, sea, air and space platforms have critical ISR roles in supporting operations in general. By massing ISR assets, allowing a period of immersion, developing layering and cross cueing of sensors, an improved clarity and depth of knowledge can be established. ISR encompasses multiple activities related to the planning and operation of systems that collect, process, and disseminate data in support of current and future military operations.
Examples of ISR systems include surveillance and reconnaissance systems ranging from satellites, to manned aircraft such as the U-2, to unmanned aircraft systems such as the US Air Force's Global Hawk and Predator and the US Army's Hunter and PSST Aerostats, to other ground-, air-, sea-, or space-based equipment, and to human intelligence teams. The intelligence data provided by these ISR systems can take many forms, including optical, radar, or infrared images or electronic signals. Effective ISR data can provide early warning of enemy threats as well as enable military forces to increase effectiveness, coordination, and lethality, and demand for ISR capabilities to support ongoing military operations has increased.
In a 2019 Broad Agency Announcement for space-based targeting sensors, the US government defined ISR in this case as "a capability for gathering data and information on an object or in an area of interest (AOI) on a persistent, event-driven, or scheduled basis using imagery, signals, and other collection methods. This includes warning (to include ballistic missile activity), targeting analysis, threat capability assessment, situational awareness, battle damage assessment (BDA), and characterization of the operational environment." Persistence was in turn described: "Persistent access provides predictable coverage of an area of interest (AOI). Most space-based intelligence collection capabilities consist of multiple satellites operating in concert, or supplemented by other sensors, when continuous surveillance of an area is desired. Persistent sensors must provide sufficient surveillance revisit timelines to support a weapon strike at any time."
ISR concepts are also associated with certain intelligence units, for instance Task Force ODIN, ISR TF (Company+) in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. In the United States, the similar entity is used within their Marine Corps's Surveillance, Reconnaissance, and Intelligence Group (SRIG). The SRIG modelled as a consolidated military intelligence collection agency, most of the gathered intelligence are collected from many sources (i.e. STA Sniper platoons, Marine reconnaissance assets, signal intelligence, etc.).
ISTAR units and formations
- Space Delta 7 (U.S. Space Force)
- Reconnaissance Surveillance and Target Acquisition (RSTA) Units (U.S. Army)
- Long-Range Surveillance (LRS) Units (U.S. Army)
- Northrop Grumman E-8 Joint STARS, Raytheon Sentinel, Alliance Ground Surveillance Aircraft
- Artillery STA
- Sayeret Matkal
- Shaldag Unit
- Brigade de renseignement (French army)
- 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment (French special force)
- Intelligence battalion (Norwegian Army)
- Jegerkompaniet (Norwegian Army)
- Kystjegerkommandoen (Norwegian Coastal Ranger Command)
- Artillerijeger (Norwegian Army)
- Garnisonen i Sør-Varanger (Borderguard, Norwegian Army)
- ISTAR battalion (Norwegian Army)
- ISTAR HQ platoon (Norwegian Army))
- Joint ISTAR Command (Dutch Army)
- 103 ISTAR battalion (Dutch Army)
- Cavalry Corps (Irish Army)
- ISTAR Battalion (Belgian Army)
- ISTAR Battalion (Portuguese Army)
- NBG ISTAR TF (EU Nordic Battle Group)
- ISTAR (Canadian Army)
- 62nd Svarzochna Brigada (Bulgarian Armed Forces)
- SIG (Swedish Armed Forces)
- 61 Special Reconnaissance Regiment (Jordan Royal Guard, Jordanian Armed Forces)
- Strategic Reconnaissance Company (28th Ranger Brigade, Jordanian Armed Forces)
- Acquisition and Survey Regiment (Jordanian Armed Forces)
- Special Support & Reconnaissance Company - SSR (Danish Defence)
- ISTAR Bat TF 11 ad hoc (Swiss Armed Forces)
- 350. military intelligence battalion ( 350. vojnoobavještajna bojna ) (Croatian Army)
- Razuznavacki bataljon na ARM, Republika Makedonija
- 5. obveščevalno-izvidniški bataljon, 5th Intelligence-Reconnaissance Btn, Military of Slovenia
- Regimiento de Inteligencia 1 (1st Intelligence Regiment, Spanish Army)
- 32nd Regiment Royal Artillery UAS Regiment (British Army)
- 47th Regiment Royal Artillery UAS Regiment (British Army)
- 30 Commando Information Exploitation Group (Royal Marines)
- 21 SAS and 23 SAS (British Army), now part of 1st Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Brigade
- Honourable Artillery Company (British Army)
- Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Intelligence Group (SRIG) U.S. Marine Corps
- STA Sniper | U.S. Marine Corps
- 6th Brigade (Australia)
- Intelligence Center (Croatian: Središnjica za obavještajno djelovanje) (Croatia)
- C4ISTAR, a broader concept that also includes Command, Control, Communications and Computers.
- CARVER matrix
- AJP-3.15(A) NATO Allied Joint Doctrine for Countering – Improvised Explosive Devices.
- Report to the Subcommittee on Air and Land Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives — General Accounting Office, 2008-03-15
- "Draft BAA, Time-Sensitive Target Mission Payloads Demonstration (TSTMPD) Solicitation Number: HQ0034-19-BAA-TSTMPD-0001".
- Sandra Erwin (February 17, 2019). "Pentagon seeking proposals for how to use sensors in space to quickly target enemy missiles". SpaceNews.