The NRO plans, designs, builds, and operates the satellites that NGA uses to produce intelligence products. NRO satellites have many customers, but the NGA is probably the most reliant on the satellites operated by the NRO.
The NGA’s capabilities include the ability to determine the composition of buildings or objects on the ground, which is valuable for a number of reasons. It could allow military planners to select the most effective munition for a precision strike or to determine the precise amount of explosives that troops on the ground need to breach the target during a raid. The NGA operates some the most advanced facial recognition software on the planet. It can conduct human-pattern analysis and even measure the gait and body size of an individual. The NGA is also adept at all-weather imagery analysis, relying on a combination of hyper-spectral and multispectral sensors mounted on satellites and unmanned aerial systems. The NGA also works with foreign countries.
As Russia plans to invade Ukraine in fall 2021, the NRO and NGA were keeping very close tabs on the Russian military’s buildup along Ukraine’s borders. After Russia unleashed his forces, those agencies continued tracking and analyzing the Russian advances, offering policymakers valuable intelligence on the progress and condition of the Russian war machine. US policymakers have made unprecedented use of that intelligence, sharing the plans and intentions of Russian forces and their leaders with allies. This intel-sharing has helped build support for the vast amount of military assistance that the US and its allies have supplied to Ukraine, often on short notice.
The NGA also played a key role in Operation Neptune’s Spear, the special-operations mission that killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011. NGA analysts worked with SEALs from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group — formerly known as SEAL Team 6 — to map the compound where the most wanted terrorist in the world was hiding. NGA analysts created three-dimensional renderings of the compound by using imagery and laser radar technology, analyzed data from RQ-170 drones that orbited the compound, and tracked the daily moments of people in the compound to determined who was there. The agency also helped the “Night Stalkers” of the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment create flight simulators that were critical for their ability to fly MH-60 helicopters — a classified stealth version of the Black Hawk — to the target without being detected. (by Stavros Atlamazoglou | Business Insider India, 2022)
The war in Ukraine has pulled the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Office out of the shadows.