CAF reaches an ISR Milestone
By: Jessica Desjardins, Joint Targeting Intelligence Centre (JTIC)
On May 9, 2019, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reached an important milestone in the development of its Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and targeting capability.
For the first time ever, a live Full-Motion Video (FMV) feed collected from a remotely piloted aircraft abroad were received and analyzed from Ottawa instead of in a deployed setting. The new Joint Targeting Intelligence Centre (JTIC) at Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC) conducted the nine-hour mission on behalf of Combined Joint Task Force – Op INHERENT RESOLVE, a coalition working against the threat posed by ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Missions have since taken place on a regular schedule.
Typically, FMV Processing Exploitation and Dissemination (PED) conducted by JTIC Motion-Imagery Analysts involves several elements. For example, it includes the analysis of real-time ISR feeds, immediately communicating essential information to theatre, and producing an end-of-mission report for the coalition being supported.
Motion Imagery Analysts are a critical component of an airborne ISR feeds mission. They take massive quantities of raw data and convert it to intelligence of an immediate value for theatre.
Advances in technology, satellite telecommunications, and robust fiber optic infrastructure means that CJOC, using JTIC FMV PED in Ottawa, is capable of analyzing high-definition motion imagery that is collected on the opposite side of the globe.
In an era where there are more sensors collecting the data than actual analysts to process it, a reach-back capability of this nature is particularly valuable to the CAF, as the work can now be done from Ottawa rather than in theater. High-demand capabilities like Motion-Imagery Analysts can be concentrated in a single location to better service operational and tactical Commanders without increasing the number of CAF members deployed to theaters to do the same work. This capability nests very well within the JTIC. Their mandate includes supporting two major operations with deliberate target development before theatre activation and during operations.
Motion Imagery Analysts at CJOC support force protection, and target development and combat assessment. They harness the power of a federated approach to FMV PED, where similar centres in geographically dispersed sites are tasked to support a range of missions to support CAF and coalition operations.
While Motion Imagery Analysis is an intelligence capability, it is not exclusively reserved for those working in the Intelligence Branch. The JTIC FMV PED Centre is currently represented by Regular and Reserve Force members from all three services, and the Intelligence Operator, Gunner, Naval Electronic Sensor Operator, and Aerospace Control Officer Occupations, and contractors.
Shortly, that broad foundation of trade knowledge will be expanded by including Motion Imagery Analysts from the Engineer Branch and the Armored Corps, and civilian members of the public service. The non-commissioned members doing this analysis work a 12-hour-shift cycle in a small team.
Attention to detail, sound understanding of tactical requirements, and mental resiliency are paramount. Time zone differences, weather in the theatre of operations, and technical challenges from remotely piloted aircrafts are persistent issues the team faces. They must remain agile to frequent changes to the client, the mission, and the area of operations.
Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Jonathan Vance, presided over the official opening of the JTIC in October 2018 and since then, the JTIC has continued to evolve, enhancing Commander CJOC’s ability to influence the battlespace. The appetite of commanders at all levels for better tactical fidelity indicates that FMV PED is on a growth plane within the CAF. The delivery of the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft System project, which is scheduled to launch between 2025-2030, only further increases that demand.
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