Geospatial information for the army is now becoming increasingly important. In all countries, the defense departments understand that the prompt provision of terrain description and geodetic parameters to the troops can decide the outcome of the confrontation. To collect, analyze and transmit such information to the troops in the United States, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has been created since 1996, headquartered in Springfield, Virginia. The new structure replaced the National Imaging and Mapping Agency (NIMA). The circle of the main tasks of the structure is very well illustrated by the motto of the office: "Explore the earth … Show the way … Know the world …".
Specialists from Springfield study not only the structure of the surface and near-earth space, but also conduct active subsurface exploration. The current head of the service is Robert Cardillo, an all-civilian who holds an art degree from Cornell University. According to reports, Cardillo turned out to be a good analyst of data intelligence in NIMA, which allowed him to advance noticeably in the service. Cardillo reports directly to the US Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence and the Director of National Intelligence.
The NGA has strategic agency status and is one component of the large US intelligence pool, which includes no less than 17 agencies at various levels. In particular, the tasks of the NGA largely overlap with the functionality of the US National Directorate of Military Space Intelligence and, in part, with the CIA itself.
More than 35 million printed and digital maps are produced annually on the basis of NGA intelligence and analytical work for the needs of the US Department of Defense. For work in the field, geospatial intelligence centers have been established, which supply the center with the necessary information. In addition, such centers, located at the facilities of the US military presence around the world, coordinate the communications of the military command with the NGA head office, and also draw up three-dimensional maps of the area. Each such center of "combat geologists and cartographers" consists of an average of 30 specialists.
The conflict in Syria has become a good testing ground for the NGA for testing new items - subsurface sensing systems. This technique was originally intended to be used on the US-Mexico border to locate underground tunnels for drug trafficking and illegal migration. But in Syria, the militants very successfully used the dug multi-kilometer passages both for organizing attacks and retreats, storing equipment and ammunition, and for undermining especially important enemy targets. The identification of such wormholes has become one of the main tasks of the US geospatial intelligence centers in Syria. Remote subsurface sensing also allowed Americans to claim in 2017 that underground storage facilities for chemical weapons had been dug beneath Shayrat airbase.
NGA Arms and Communications
In the tactical reconnaissance unit, NGA specialists use a heavy mine detector Husky Visor 2500, equipped with four ground penetrating radars, capable of probing the subsurface layer to a depth of 1.8 meters. In addition to detecting, marking and defusing mines, the machine is capable of creating a three-dimensional picture of the underworld, highlighting suspicious voids. Visor 2500 is actively used by NATO countries, in particular, Spain has purchased a batch of vehicles for work in Afghanistan. Also interested in buying wheeled radars is Turkey, which plans to use the vehicles in the Syrian conflict.
But the Husky Visor 2500 is a large and bulky machine that cannot, for example, work in narrow streets. In addition, she is often involved in her main job - searching for mines. Directly for detecting underground tunnels, the R&D Center of the US Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, has developed a compact subsurface radar R2TD (Rapid Reaction Tunnel Detection). It can be used both in a wearable version and installed on light equipment. The device has several sensors that allow not only to scan the earth with a radar, but also to determine acoustic waves, heat sources and seismic activity. In addition, R2TD “sees” underground power lines and various communication lines. In the open press, there are still no tactical and technical characteristics of a compact GPR, although it has been used in the army since 2014. It is only indicated that the manufacturer regularly updates the software of the device, since terrorist organizations are constantly changing both the configuration of the tunnels and the methods of laying. First of all, the Americans have equipped the locations of their troops in Afghanistan and Syria with similar equipment. They have a rich and blood-rich history of fighting underground warriors, dating back to Vietnam. In this regard, many American military camps are surrounded by passive ground line sensors, warning of suspicious seismic activity. The US Army even has a whole class of new specialists called “underground hunters”. Surely, in the near future we will see another patriotic film about them.
For the purpose of aerial reconnaissance, NGI adapted a modern BuckEye complex, equipped, in addition to an optical channel, with a laser radar or a LIDAR Optech ALTM 3100 model. Such devices have been tested and even mass-produced by automobile concerns for autopilot systems for several years. Lidars are extremely expensive, but the output is excellent. True, they depend quite strongly on weather conditions, therefore, they are often duplicated by the radar observation channel. With the help of BuckEye, the Americans have already “filmed” a large part of the territory of Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq.
The Americans are actively using expensive reconnaissance equipment - in total, since 2007, in the interests of the US Army, they have collected accurate three-dimensional maps of the territory with a total area of more than 300 thousand square meters. kilometers. In Afghanistan alone, at least five BuckEye-powered aircraft have operated. The plans for modernization include the installation of a sensitive infrared sensor for precise positioning of enemy equipment and manpower.
One of the most important areas of NGI's work is the expansion of the controlled area of the globe by attracting partner countries. So, since 1956, the Five Eyes (FVEY) organization has been functioning, which includes the intelligence services of five countries - the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. This is a kind of global intelligence service, which Snowden described as "a supranational intelligence organization that does not obey the laws of their countries." Within FVEY, among other things, they exchange geodetic data, and also attract third countries to cooperation. As a result, all information is naturally accumulated in NGI think tanks and used in the interests of the US Department of Defense.