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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT)

Measurement and Signature Intelligence (MASINT) is scientific and technical intelligence information obtained by quantitative and qualitative analysis of data (metric, angle, spatial, wavelength, time dependence, modulation, plasma, and hydromagnetic) derived from specific technical sensors for the purpose of identifying any distinctive features associated with the source, emitter, or sender and to facilitate subsequent identification and/or measurement of the same.

MASINT includes:



Thermal Infrared (JR) Heat Imaging Where are the hot spots and how does the target look when in operation
Near IR Imaging Just past visible light; used by night vision goggles; camouflage detection and use in night operations
Acoustic Signatures What does the system sound like, or where is a target such as a sniper
Seismic Data How much does the ground shake when the target roles past
Imaging Radar Data Seeing through smoke, haze, foliage, and even water to try to detect and identify a target
Laser Imaging and Detection Use of laser imaging systems for target and chemical/biological agent detection; detection and classification of emitters
Dimension and Feature Profiling Deriving measurements on dimensions, weight, capacity, color, etc. to support modeling, simulation and algorithm development

Two important distinctions between MASINT and other intelligence systems are the maturity and diversity of the component systems. MASINT technologies are both immature and diverse. The R&D support emphasis that has characterized past MASINT collection and processing is shifting with the fielding of modern weapons systems. Few MASINT systems fielded prior to 1991 used embedded libraries, signatures or templates to perform autonomous detection, classification, tracking or engagement functions. This has changed markedly over the past five years, with the fielding of new aviation and fire support weapons. Numerous MASINT-based systems are used in roles as varied as intruder detection, strategic missile launch warning, and nuclear weapons test monitoring. Other MASINT-based ATSS currently in development will perform a variety of roles--e.g., non-cooperative recognition and engagement of surface and air targets, active missile detection and countermeasure, fratricide prevention, vehicle survivability, and intelligence gathering operations.

Within the Department of Defense (DoD), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) provides central coordination for MASINT collection efforts. Each service, in turn, has a primary command or staff activity to develop requirements and coordinate MASINT effort.

Army responsibility resides with the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). Army weapons systems programs that require MASINT information to support system design or operation submit requests through INSCOM for data collection and processing. MASINT collection and processing is performed primarily by the Scientific and Technical Intelligence (S&TI) community to support research and development (R&D) programs. Every S&TI center has some involvement in MASINT collection or production which reflects that center's overall mission (National Ground Intelligence Center [NGIC] does work on armored vehicles, artillery, etc.) Service R&D centers such as the Communications-Electronics Command (CECOM) Research, Development and Engineering Center (RDEC), Night Vision and Electronic Systems (NVES) laboratory, are also involved in the collection and processing of MASINT.

Until recently, MASINT information wasn't managed centrally. Data was collected against service specific requirements, often supporting classified development efforts. As a result, information was hard to find or retrieve at a later date. In 1990, the Army started a MASINT data management effort intended to capture and provide MASINT information in a consolidated manner. This is similar to that available to the SIGINT and ELINT communities in the Electronic Warfare Integrated Reprogramming (EWIR), Kilting and Non-Communications Systems Data Bases (NCSDB). This effort evolved into a DoD-wide initiative managed by NGIC, called the National Target Signature Data System (NTSDS).

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Monday, May 08, 2000 5:55:47 AM