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What is Air Force Intelligence?

By G. Wiesen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Air Force intelligence is the process by which the United States (US) armed forces division known as the Air Force gathers information on enemy, and potential enemy, nations to better prepare or deal with hostile actions and wars. The three principal areas of intelligence gathering handled by the Air Force are in “air, space and cyberspace” and Air Force intelligence is used to better prepare combatants and military advisers looking to control those three areas. This is often done through gathering information with a number of different intelligence gathering tools, then analyzing that information in order to better understand what is happening in the world.

The Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Agency is the principal group responsible for the gathering and analysis of intelligence and information in the Air Force. Located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the Air Force ISR Agency was called the Air Intelligence Agency prior to 2007. The Air Force ISR Agency uses a number of different techniques, squadrons, and flight wings to gather the information that is analyzed as Air Force intelligence.

Air Force intelligence typically involves the analysis and monitoring of what nations outside the US are doing, preparing for, or capable of regarding air, space, and cyberspace efforts. This can include battlefield information and analysis to assist other branches of the US armed forces in combat, viewing the air bases of foreign nations to watch for aggressive movements, and monitoring the weapons capabilities of other countries. Air Force spy planes are often used to obtain a bird’s eye perspective of a battlefield, in order to assist ground units to better understand the movements or position of enemy combatants.

This intelligence can also be used to then directly assist ground combatants by providing an aerial strike against ground targets that may be engaging other US troops. Early detection of potentially aggressive behaviors from other nations can also be obtained through Air Force intelligence to plan a counterattack or watch for continued hostility. This type of information is often used in advising members of government in considering military action or diplomatic measures toward a resolution.

Similarly, Air Force intelligence can be used to monitor potential development or deployment of weapons by other nations. This information is often used in negotiations with those countries for disarmament or similar agreements toward neutralizing weapons stockpiles. In this way, Air Force intelligence can be used to prevent or alter a potentially destructive situation towards a more peaceful resolution.

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