Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Limitations of NATO ISR Around Ukraine

The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities around Ukraine are limited by the threat of nuclear war. Intelligence products are built on the surveillance and reconnaissance being conducted. This intelligence is then provided to Ukraine to facilitate their defenses and counter-offensives. Examples of this being used effectively are the strike on a large Russian transport plane flying toward Kyiv with hundreds of troops onboard, and another is the sinking of the Moskva naval cruiser in the Black Sea. Due to ISR detection of these critical targets, Ukraine successfully defended the capital and garnered international popularity for destroying Russia's flagship in the region. 

NATO ISR does not reach far into Ukraine in order to avoid becoming an active belligerent and a greater conflict with Russia. Instead, manned and unmanned aircraft make up the capability around Ukraine, with advantages and disadvantages to each. Manned aircraft are able to produce actionable intelligence in real time, providing Ukrainian forces with quick access to important information. However, NATO is hesitant to use manned aircraft in the Black Sea closer to Russian forces, limiting it to coverage of the western half of the country. Unmanned aircraft are able to be used in riskier areas such as the Black Sea, but without onboard analysts to produce intelligence the raw information must be transferred, which creates a greater delay in sharing with Ukraine. The risk of contact with Russia was proven in March of this year, when a Russian jet intentionally collided with a US drone that caused it to crash. Since it was unmanned, it was much less consequential to relations than if it resulted in loss of life. Overall, NATO ISR is an effective if limited asset to the conflict, facilitating Ukraine's ability to fight back against Russian forces.

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