Reconnaissance

In military operations, reconnaissance or scouting is the exploration outside an area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about natural features and other activities in the area.

Examples of reconnaissance include patrolling by troops (skirmishers, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol, U.S. Army Rangers, cavalry scouts, or military intelligence specialists), ships or submarines, manned/unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, satellites, or by setting up covert observation posts. Espionage normally is not reconnaissance, because reconnaissance is a military's special forces operating ahead of its main forces; spies are non-combatants operating behind enemy lines.

Often called "recce" (British, Canadian and Australian English) or "recon" (American English), the associated verb is reconnoitre.

ARW EastTimor1
Irish Army Ranger Wing operators on a reconnaissance mission in East Timor

History

On Reconnaissance, Józef Brandt, 1876
Tatar horsemen in the painting On Reconnaissance by Józef Brandt, 1876

Traditionally, reconnaissance was a role that was adopted by the cavalry. Speed was key in these maneuvers, thus infantry was ill-suited to the task. From horses to vehicles, for warriors throughout history, commanders procured their ability to have speed and mobility, to mount and dismount, during maneuver warfare. Military commanders favored specialized small units for speed and mobility, to gain valuable information about the terrain and enemy before sending the main (or majority) troops into the area, screening, covering force, pursuit and exploitation roles. Skirmishing is a traditional skill of reconnaissance, as well as harassment of the enemy.

Overview

RDG Scimitar on Hohne Ranges 2007
A Scimitar as used by armoured reconnaissance regiments of the British Army
JGSDF reconnaissance bicycle (Kawasaki KLX250) 20140429-01
A two-man JGSDF team mans Kawasaki KLX250 dirt bikes in the reconnaissance role during a public demonstration

Reconnaissance conducted by ground forces includes special reconnaissance, armored reconnaissance, amphibious reconnaissance and civil reconnaissance.

Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance carried out by aircraft (of all types including balloons and unmanned aircraft). The purpose is to survey weather conditions, map terrain, and may include military purposes such as observing tangible structures, particular areas, and movement of enemy forces.

Naval forces use aerial and satellite reconnaissance to observe enemy forces. Navies also undertake hydrographic surveys and intelligence gathering.

Reconnaissance satellites provide military commanders with photographs of enemy forces and other intelligence. Military forces also use geographical and meteorological information from Earth observation satellites.

Psychology

A tracker needs to pay close attention to both the environment and the psychology of his enemy. Knowledge of human psychology, sociology, and cultural backgrounds is necessary to know the actions of the enemy and where the enemy is heading. The celebrated Chief of Scouts Frederick Russell Burnham had this to say:[2]

It is imperative that a scout should know the history, tradition, religion, social customs, and superstitions of whatever country or people he is called on to work in or among. This is almost as necessary as to know the physical character of the country, its climate and products. Certain people will do certain things almost without fail. Certain other things, perfectly feasible, they will not do. There is no danger of knowing too much of the mental habits of an enemy. One should neither underestimate the enemy nor credit him with superhuman powers. Fear and courage are latent in every human being, though roused into activity by very diverse means.

Discipline

Types of reconnaissance:

  • Terrain-oriented reconnaissance is a survey of the terrain (its features, weather, and other natural observations).
  • Force-oriented reconnaissance focuses on the enemy forces (number, equipment, activities, disposition etc.) and may include target acquisition.
  • Civil-oriented reconnaissance focuses on the civil dimension of the battlespace (areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people and events abbreviated ASCOPE).

The techniques and objectives are not mutually exclusive; it is up to the commander whether they are carried out separately or by the same unit.

Reconnaissance-in-force

Japanese - Type 87 Scout - 4
a Type 87 ARV armoured recon vehicle from the JSDF

Units tasked with reconnaissance are armed only for self-defense, and rely on stealth to gather information. Others are well-enough armed to also deny information to the enemy by destroying their reconnaissance elements.

Reconnaissance-in-force (RIF) is a type of military operation or military tactics used specifically to probe an enemy's disposition. By mounting an offensive with considerable (but not decisive) force, the commander hopes to elicit a strong reaction by the enemy that reveals its own strength, deployment, and other tactical data. The RIF commander retains the option to fall back with the data or expand the conflict into a full engagement.

Other methods consist of hit-and-run tactics using rapid mobility, and in some cases light-armored vehicles for added fire superiority, as the need arises.

Reconnaissance-by-fire

Reconnaissance by fire (or speculative fire) is the act of firing at likely enemy positions, in order to cause the enemy force to reveal their location by moving or by returning fire.[3]

Reconnaissance-pull

Reconnaissance-pull is a tactic that is applied at the regiment to division level and defined as locating and rapidly exploiting enemy weaknesses. It is the ability to determine enemy positions and create exploitable gaps through which friendly forces can pass while avoiding obstacles and strong points.[4]

A textbook example of reconnaissance-pull was documented during the Tinian landings of World War II, utilized by the United States Marine Corps's Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion, from V Amphibious Corps. Aerial photography and the confirmation by the amphibious reconnaissance platoons determined that the Japanese defenders had largely ignored the northern beaches of the island, focusing most of their defensive effort on beaches in the south-west which were more favorable for an amphibious landing. American forces quickly changed their landing location to the northern beaches and planned a small and hasty "deception" operation off the southern beach, which resulted in a complete surprise for the Japanese forces. As a result, American forces were able to fight the Japanese force on land, where they had the advantage, leading to light losses and a relatively short battle that lasted only 9 days.[5]

Types

When referring to reconnaissance, a commander's full intention is to have a vivid picture of his battlespace. The commander organizes the reconnaissance platoon based on:

  1. mission,
  2. enemy,
  3. terrain,
  4. troops and support available,
  5. time available, and
  6. civil considerations.

This analysis determines whether the platoon uses single or multiple elements to conduct the reconnaissance, whether it pertains to area, zone, or route reconnaissance, the following techniques may be used as long as the fundamentals of reconnaissance are applied.

Scouts may also have different tasks to perform for their commanders of higher echelons, for example: the engineer reconnaissance detachments will try to identify difficult terrain in the path of their formation, and attempt to reduce the time it takes to transit the terrain using specialist engineering equipment such as a pontoon bridge for crossing water obstacles. Sanitary epidemiological reconnaissance implies collection and transfer of all data available on sanitary and epidemiological situation of the area of possible deployment and action of armed forces, the same data for the neighboring and enemy armed forces. The aim for the reconnaissance is to clear up the reasons of the specific disease origin- sources of the infection in various extreme situations, including local wars and armed conflicts, the ways of the infection transfer and all factors promoting to the infestation.

After the armed forces have become stationary during wartime and emergency of peacetime the sanitary epidemiological reconnaissance turns into sanitary and epidemiological surveillance and medical control of vital and communal activity of the armed forces.[6][7]

Area

Montagnards in field
March 5, 1968. 1st Cav LRRP Montagnard scouts in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam

Area reconnaissance refers to the observation, and information obtained, about a specified location and the area around it; it may be terrain-oriented and/or force-oriented. Ideally, a reconnaissance platoon, or team, would use surveillance or vantage (static) points around the objective to observe, and the surrounding area. This methodology focuses mainly prior to moving forces into or near a specified area; the military commander may utilize his reconnaissance assets to conduct an area reconnaissance to avoid being surprised by unsuitable terrain conditions, or most importantly, unexpected enemy forces. The area could be a town, ridge-line, woods, or another feature that friendly forces intend to occupy, pass through, or avoid.[1]

Within an area of operation (AO), area reconnaissance can focus the reconnaissance on the specific area that is critical to the commander. This technique of focusing the reconnaissance also permits the mission to be accomplished more quickly. Area reconnaissance can thus be a stand-alone mission or a task to a section or the platoon. The commander analyzes the mission to determine whether the platoon will conduct these types of reconnaissance separately or in conjunction with each other.[1]

Civil

Civil reconnaissance is the process of gathering a broad spectrum of civil information about a specific population in support of military operations. It is related to and often performed in conjunction with infrastructure reconnaissance (assessment and survey). Normally the focus of collection in the operational area for civil reconnaissance is collecting civil information relating to the daily interaction between civilians and military forces. Civil information encompasses relational, temporal, geospatial and behavioral information captured in a socio-cultural backdrop. It is information developed from data related to civil areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people, and events, within the civil component of the commander's operational environment that can be processed to increase situational awareness and understanding. The type of civil information that is needed in order to support military operations varies based on the environment and situation.[8][9]

Route

US Navy 030412-N-1485H-009 Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Team (SERT) reach their mission destination to determine if an old bridge can be used to support troop and convoy movements during an annual field exercise
U.S. Seabee Engineer Reconnaissance Team on a mission to determine if a bridge can be used to support troop and convoy movements

Route reconnaissance is oriented on a given route: e.g. a road, a railway, a waterway; a narrow axis or a general direction of attack, to provide information on route conditions or activities along the route. A military commander relies on information about locations along his determined route: which those that would provide best cover and concealment; bridge by construction type, dimensions, and classification; or for landing zones or pickup zones, if the need arises.[1]

In many cases, the commander may act upon a force-oriented route reconnaissance by which the enemy could influence movement along that route. For the reconnaissance platoons, or squads, stealth and speed—in conjunction with detailed intelligence-reporting—are most important and crucial. The reconnaissance platoon must remain far enough ahead of the maneuver force to assist in early warning and to prevent the force from becoming surprised.

Even it is paramount to obtain information about the available space in which a force can maneuver without being forced to bunch up due to obstacles. Terrain-oriented route reconnaissance allows the commander to obtain information and capabilities about the adjacent terrain for maneuvering his forces, to include, any obstacles (minefields, barriers, steep ravines, marshy areas, or chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear contamination) that may obstruct vehicle movement—on routes to, and in, his assigned area of operations. This requirement includes the size of trees and the density of forests due to their effects on vehicle movement. Route reconnaissance also allows the observation for fields of fire along the route and adjacent terrain. This information assists planners as a supplement to map information.

Zone

Zone reconnaissance focuses on obtaining detailed information before maneuvering their forces through particular, designated locations. It can be terrain-oriented, force-oriented, or both, as it acquire this information by reconnoitering within—and by maintaining surveillance over—routes, obstacles (to include nuclear-radiological, biological, and chemical contamination), and resources within an assigned location.[5]

Also, force-oriented zone reconnaissance is assigned to gain detailed information about enemy forces within the zone, or when the enemy situation is vague by which the information concerning cross-country traffic-ability is desired.[1] The reconnaissance provides the commander with a detailed picture of how the enemy has occupied the zone, enabling him to choose the appropriate course-of-action.

As the platoon conducts this type of zone reconnaissance, its emphasis is on determining the enemy's locations, strengths, and weaknesses. This is the most thorough and complete reconnaissance mission and therefore is very time-intensive.

Gallery

A52 Oste
An Oste class ELINT and reconnaissance ship, of the German Navy
U-2 photo during Cuban Missile Crisis
Soviet convoy deploying Intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Cuba, 1962. Taken from a Lockheed U-2, it was the first picture proving Soviet missiles were being emplaced in Cuba
Fennek beim Feuern
German Army Fennek reconnaissance vehicle

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Field Manual (FM) 7–92: The Infantry Reconnaissance Platoon and Squad (Airborne, Air Assault, Light Infantry). United States Army. 2001. p. 4.0.
  2. ^ Burnham, Frederick Russell (1926). Scouting on Two Continents. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-86920-126-8. OCLC 407686.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ "Reconnaissance-pull"—seeking the path of least resistance (monograph, US Command and General Staff College, 1991)
  5. ^ a b "Chap. 11". Marine Corps Operations (MCDP 1-0). Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication. 2007. pp. 11–10.
  6. ^ Beliakov VD Military Epidemiology. Textbook in Russian. Leningrad, 1976 p153.
  7. ^ Mel'nichenko P. I., Ogarkov O. I., Lizunov Yu. V. Military Hygiene and Military Epidemiology. 400 pp., ill. 2005 ISBN 5-225-04849-8
  8. ^ Burke, Kevin. "Civil Reconnaissance; Separating the Insurgent from the Population" (PDF). NPS. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Joint Publication 3-57" (PDF). US Government. Retrieved 29 December 2017.

Further reading

  • Halsall, Christine, Women of Intelligence: Winning the Second World War with Air Photos, The History Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-7524-6477-0.
26th Information Operations Wing

The 26th Information Operations Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with United States Air Forces in Europe at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, where it was inactivated on 5 July 2006.

The wing was first established during World War II as the 5th Photographic Group with Twelfth and Fifteenth Air Forces in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations.

The 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing operated under the direction of Strategic Air Command from 1952 until 1958. The two units were consolidated in 1965 as the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and served for the next twenty-six years with United States Air Forces Europe. The wing was inactivated on 31 July 1991.

The wing was activated again as the 26th Intelligence Wing in late 1991.

70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing

The 70th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing (70th ISR Wing) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Twenty-Fifth Air Force. It is stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.

Known as "America's Cryptologic Wing", is the only Air Force wing that supports the National Security Agency, the Twenty-Fifth Air Force, and the entire United States Air Force with cryptologic intelligence.

The 70th Reconnaissance Group conducted observation, artillery adjustment and fighter and bomber support training with United States Army ground forces during World War II. The group served as a reserve unit for two years later in the decade. During the Cold War, the 70th was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's (SAC) deterrent force as a strategic reconnaissance organization and heavy bombardment wing.

71st Flying Training Wing

The 71st Flying Training Wing is a United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Education and Training Command. It is stationed at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma where has conducted pilot training for the Air Force and allied nations since 1972. It also is the host unit for Vance.

The wing was briefly activated as the 71st Tactical Reconnaissance Wing in 1948 but was operational for only a few weeks before being discontinued. During the Cold War, as the 71st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, it was a part of Strategic Air Command. The wing performed strategic reconnaissance and also tested a technique for launching small F-84K reconnaissance aircraft from GRB-36 bombers to extend the range of photographic reconnaissance and fighter escort. The testing ended in 1956, but the wing continued strategic reconnaissance until inactivated on 1 July 1957.

The wing was activated again in 1962 as the 71 Surveillance Wing. It operated and maintained systems to detect intercontinental ballistic missiles and sea-launched ballistic missile launches until it was inactivated in 1971. The wing was activated with its current mission a year later.

9th Reconnaissance Wing

The 9th Reconnaissance Wing (9 RW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the Air Combat Command Twenty-Fifth Air Force. It is stationed at Beale Air Force Base, California. The wing is also the host unit at Beale.

Its mission is to organize, train and equip the Air Force's fleet of U-2R Dragon Lady, RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft for peacetime intelligence gathering, contingency operations, conventional war fighting and Emergency War Order support. It is also assigned T-38 Talons for U-2 pilots to maintain flight hours.

Its 9th Operations Group is a descendant organization of the 9th Group (Observation), one of the 13 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.

During World War II, the 9th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) was an air combat unit of the United States Army Air Forces. Active for over 60 years, the 9 RW was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force throughout the Cold War, performing strategic reconnaissance on a worldwide basis.

Aerial reconnaissance

Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance for a military or strategic purpose that is conducted using reconnaissance aircraft. This role can fulfil a variety of requirements, including the collection of imagery intelligence, observation of enemy maneuvers and artillery spotting.

Command and control

Command and control or C2 is a "set of organizational and technical attributes and processes ... [that] employs human, physical, and information resources to solve problems and accomplish missions" to achieve the goals of an organization or enterprise, according to a 2015 definition by military scientists Marius Vassiliou, David S. Alberts and Jonathan R. Agre, The term often refers to a military system.

Versions of the United States Army Field Manual 3-0 circulated circa 1999, define C2 in a military organization as the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commanding officer over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of a mission.A 1988 NATO definition, command and control is the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated individual over assigned resources in the accomplishment of a common goal. An Australian Defence Force definition, similar to that of NATO, emphasises that C2 is the system empowering designated personnel to exercise lawful authority and direction over assigned forces for the accomplishment of missions and tasks. (The Australian doctrine goes on to state: The use of agreed terminology and definitions is fundamental to any C2 system and the development of joint doctrine and procedures. The definitions in the following paragraphs have some agreement internationally, although not every potential ally will use the terms with exactly the same meaning.)

List of World War I Entente aircraft

This is a list of World War I Entente aircraft organized by country of origin. Dates are of first flight.

List of seaplanes and amphibious aircraft

The following is a list of seaplanes and amphibious aircraft, which includes floatplanes and flying boats, by country of origin.

Seaplanes are any aircraft that has the capability of landing on water while amphibious aircraft are equipped with wheels to alight on land, as well as being able to land on the water. Flying boats rely on the fuselage or hull for buoyancy, while floatplanes rely on external pontoons or floats. Some experimental aircraft used specially designed skis to skim across the water but did not always have a corresponding ability to float.

This list does not include ekranoplans, 'Wing-In-Ground-effect' (WIG), water-skimmers, wingships or similar vehicles reliant on ground effect.

Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird

The Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" is a long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft that was operated by the United States Air Force. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and its Skunk Works division. American aerospace engineer Clarence "Kelly" Johnson was responsible for many of the design's innovative concepts. During aerial reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If a surface-to-air missile launch were detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile. The shape of the SR-71 was based on the A-12 which was one of the first aircraft to be designed with a reduced radar cross-section.

The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents but none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including "Blackbird" and "Habu". Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the related Lockheed YF-12.

Lockheed U-2

The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is an American single-jet engine, ultra-high altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It provides day and night, high-altitude (70,000 feet; 21,000 m), all-weather intelligence gathering.Lockheed Corporation originally proposed it in 1953, approval followed 1954, and the first test flight occurred in 1955. It was flown during the Cold War over the Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cuba. In 1960, Gary Powers was shot down in a CIA U-2A over the Soviet Union by a surface-to-air missile (SAM). Major Rudolf Anderson Jr. was shot down in another U-2 during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

U-2s have also taken part in post–Cold War conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and supported several multinational NATO operations. The U-2 has also been used for electronic sensor research, satellite calibration, scientific research, and communications purposes. The U-2 is one of a handful of aircraft types to have served the USAF for over 50 years, like the Boeing B-52. The newest models (TR-1, U-2R, U-2S) entered service in the 1980s with the latest model, the U-2S, receiving its technical upgrade in 2012.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is a NASA robotic spacecraft currently orbiting the Moon in an eccentric polar mapping orbit. Data collected by LRO has been described as essential for planning NASA's future human and robotic missions to the Moon. Its detailed mapping program is identifying safe landing sites, locating potential resources on the Moon, characterizing the radiation environment, and demonstrating new technologies.Launched on June 18, 2009, in conjunction with the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), as the vanguard of NASA's Lunar Precursor Robotic Program, LRO was the first United States mission to the Moon in over ten years.

LRO and LCROSS were launched as part of the United States's Vision for Space Exploration program.

The probe has made a 3-D map of the Moon's surface at 100-meter resolution and 98.2% coverage (excluding polar areas in deep shadow), including 0.5-meter resolution images of Apollo landing sites. The first images from LRO were published on July 2, 2009, showing a region in the lunar highlands south of Mare Nubium (Sea of Clouds).The total cost of the mission is reported as US$583 million, of which $504 million pertains to the main LRO probe and $79 million to the LCROSS satellite.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) is a multipurpose spacecraft designed to conduct reconnaissance and exploration of Mars from orbit. The US$720 million spacecraft was built by Lockheed Martin under the supervision of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The mission is managed by the California Institute of Technology, at the JPL, in Pasadena, California, for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. It was launched August 12, 2005, and attained Martian orbit on March 10, 2006. In November 2006, after five months of aerobraking, it entered its final science orbit and began its primary science phase. As MRO entered orbit, it joined five other active spacecraft that were either in orbit or on the planet's surface: Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Express, 2001 Mars Odyssey, and the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity); at the time, this set a record for the most operational spacecraft in the immediate vicinity of Mars. Mars Global Surveyor and the rover Spirit have since ceased to function, while Opportunity has remained silent since June 10, 2018; the remainder remain operational as of January 2019.

MRO contains a host of scientific instruments such as cameras, spectrometers, and radar, which are used to analyze the landforms, stratigraphy, minerals, and ice of Mars. It paves the way for future spacecraft by monitoring Mars' daily weather and surface conditions, studying potential landing sites, and hosting a new telecommunications system. MRO's telecommunications system will transfer more data back to Earth than all previous interplanetary missions combined, and MRO will serve as a highly capable relay satellite for future missions. It has enough propellant to keep functioning into the 2030s.

National Reconnaissance Office

The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is a member of the United States Intelligence Community and an agency of the United States Department of Defense. NRO is considered, along with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Security Agency (NSA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), to be one of the "big five" U.S. intelligence agencies. The NRO is headquartered in unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginia, 2 miles (3.2 km) south of Washington Dulles International Airport.

It designs, builds, and operates the reconnaissance satellites of the U.S. federal government, and provides satellite intelligence to several government agencies, particularly signals intelligence (SIGINT) to the NSA, imagery intelligence (IMINT) to the NGA, and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) to the DIA.The Director of the NRO reports to both the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense and serves in an additional capacity as Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (Intelligence Space Technology). The NRO's federal workforce consists primarily of Air Force, CIA, NGA, NSA, and Navy personnel. A 1996 bipartisan commission report described the NRO as having by far the largest budget of any intelligence agency, and "virtually no federal workforce", accomplishing most of its work through "tens of thousands" of defense contractor personnel.

Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (United States)

Reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition (RSTA), is a type of unit in the United States Army. RSTA units are small reconnaissance units based on cavalry squadrons, and act at the squadron (battalion) level as a brigade reconnaissance team for the regiment (brigade).

Reconnaissance aircraft

A reconnaissance aircraft is a military surveillance aircraft designed or adapted to perform aerial reconnaissance. Their roles include collection of imagery intelligence (such as photography), signals intelligence, and measurement and signature intelligence. In addition to general intelligence gathering, modern technology has also enabled some aircraft and UAVs to carry out real-time surveillance.

In years prior to the development and common use of sophisticated electronic sensors (such as radar) and image recording devices, reconnaissance aircraft were also relied upon by military forces for distant visual observation and scouting of enemy movement. An example is the PBY Catalina maritime patrol flying boat used by the Allies in World War II: a flight of U.S. Navy Catalinas spotted part of the Japanese fleet approaching Midway Island, beginning the Battle of Midway.

Reconnaissance satellite

A reconnaissance satellite or intelligence satellite (commonly, although unofficially, referred to as a spy satellite) is an Earth observation satellite or communications satellite deployed for military or intelligence applications.

The first generation type (i.e., Corona

and Zenit) took photographs, then ejected canisters of photographic film which would descend to earth. Corona capsules were retrieved in mid-air as they floated down on parachutes. Later, spacecraft had digital imaging systems and downloaded the images via encrypted radio links.

In the United States, most information available is on programs that existed up to 1972, as this information has been declassified due to its age. Some information about programs prior to that time is still classified, and a small amount of information is available on subsequent missions.

A few up-to-date reconnaissance satellite images have been declassified on occasion, or leaked, as in the case of KH-11 photographs which were sent to Jane's Defence Weekly in 1984.

United States Marine Air-Ground Task Force Reconnaissance

The reconnaissance mission within the United States Marine Corps is divided into two distinct but complementary aspects; Marine Division Recon and Force Reconnaissance.

The United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions (or commonly called Marine Division Recon) are the reconnaissance assets of Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) that provide division-level ground and amphibious reconnaissance to the Ground Combat Element within the United States Marine Corps. Division reconnaissance teams are employed to observe and report on enemy activity and other information of military significance in close operations. Their capabilities are similar to those of Force Recon, but do not normally insert by parachute, and provide limited direct action, whereas Force Reconnaissance companies perform both deep reconnaissance and direct action operations. Some of these missions are shared by Marine Special Operations Teams, a subordinate part of Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC).

United States Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance

Force Reconnaissance (FORECON) is one of the United States Marine Corps' special operations capable forces (SOC) that provides essential elements of military intelligence to the command element of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF), by supporting their task force commanders, and their subordinate operating units of the Fleet Marine Force (FMF).Historically, the Force Recon companies, detachments and platoons performed both deep reconnaissance and direct action (DA) operations. Some missions are now shared by the Marine Special Operations Teams (MSOT), due to the establishment of the U.S. Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC) in 2006. MARSOC was formed from Force Recon's direct action platoons, and now are capable of performing many of the same mission sets for USSOCOM. This dual existence now allows the FORECON companies to focus on excelling in their primary intelligence-gathering mission, as well as the Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure (VBSS) side of the specialized raid mission.

FORECON is responsible for operating independently behind enemy lines performing unconventional special operations, in support of conventional warfare. The unit's various methods of airborne, heliborne, submarine and waterborne insertions and extractions are similar to those of the Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces, 75th Ranger Regiment, or Air Force Combat Controllers, although Force Recon's missions and tasks do differ slightly with a focus on primarily supporting Marine expeditionary and amphibious operations.

United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions

The United States Marine Corps Reconnaissance Battalions (or commonly called Marine Division Recon) are the Special Operations Capable reconnaissance assets of Marine Air-Ground Task Force that provide division-level ground and amphibious reconnaissance to the Ground Combat Element within the United States Marine Corps. Division reconnaissance teams are employed to observe and report on enemy activity and other information of military significance in close operations. The Military Occupational Specialty code for Reconnaissance Marine is 0321.

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