1 ISR Wing Fifth Anniversary

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the formation of No. 1 Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Wing (1 ISR Wing), a Force Element under the ISTAR Air Wing. We take data from multiple sources and produce intelligence for a wide range of people and organisations.

The Wing was formed on 1 Apr 16 with the amalgamation of Tactical Imagery Intelligence Wing (TIW), based at RAF Marham, 54 Signals Unit (54SU) based at RAF Digby and the ground analyst cadre of V(AC) Squadron, RAF Waddington. The Wing was further complemented in 2018 when the Reconnaissance, Intelligence and Geographical Centre Northern Ireland (RIGC-NI) based out of Aldergrove FS, was renamed 3 ISR Squadron and placed under the command of the Wing.
These organisations had extremely good reputations within both the intelligence community and Defence for their imagery and electronic intelligence output, but their products were produced in isolation, which limited their value. By placing intelligence analysts from a range of specialisations into the same organisation, intelligence derived from multiple sources could more easily be combined, improving both the utility and accuracy of reporting.
Now, with circa 385 personnel, 1 ISR Wing currently operates out of multiple UK locations, with a HQ element at RAF Waddington. In addition, the Wing augments its capability through the use of Royal Navy, Army, Reservist and personnel from allied nations. The Wing has a number of formed unit deployments overseas including in Cyprus and Afghanistan and continually deploys its personnel to these locations.

The Wing is responsible for producing intelligence from a wide variety of sources. This includes imagery intelligence and electronic surveillance in support of operations. Historically, data transfer between platform and analysts involved running between the two with a brick! Although this does still have to happen in some cases, advances in technology and robust new infrastructure maintained by skilled Wing technicians means that we can now receive data from a variety of sources via datalinks and established feeds. The ability to provide analysis from allied and coalition partners allows for collaboration and a reciprocal intelligence sharing environment from the tactical to the strategic level.
Analytical capacity has to remain flexible in order to be as useful as possible to Defence. We offer all of our capacity to the Joint Intelligence Operations Centre and conduct a mix of standing and ad hoc tasks depending on priority. For our analysts, this could mean that they are expected to concentrate on an intelligence problem in the Middle East on one day, and switch to assisting civil authorities in flood prevention within the UK the day after, all from the same workstation. Our connectivity and flexibility is crucial in enabling this.
So given all that has occurred in the first 5 years of 1 ISR Wing’s existence, what will the next 5 years bring? The Wing will continue to innovate and adapt in order to meet current and future Defence requirements. In the coming years, the introduction and integration of new, more capable airframes such as Protector, P-8, F-35 and E-7 will lead to a significant increase in the amount of data collected, and these are just the UK platforms coming online. The variety of capabilities and the potential for more data from partner nations brings greater challenges to intelligence production. Exploring the utility of automation and AI will be crucial as will reviewing our ways of working towards optimal output, but making sure that the data can be accessed is a necessary first step.
There are clear challenges ahead, but 1 ISR Wg and its people are well placed to meet them!