Scientific and Technical Intelligence, Chapter 10

Title:                      Scientific and Technical Intelligence

Author:                 Paul W. Blackstock

Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. “Chapter 10: “Scientific and Technical Intelligence,” Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co.

LCCN:    74011567

Z6724.I7 B55


Date Updated:  June 2, 2016


The U.S. Defense Department’s Dictionary of Military And Associated Terms[1] defines scientific and technical intelligence as intelligence pertaining to (1) foreign developments in basic and applied research as well as engineering techniques, (2) the technical characteristics, capabilities, limitations, and vulnerabilities of all foreign weapons and weapons systems, and (3) the production methods employed in their serial manufacture. Since the post-World War II explosion of knowledge has made scientific and technological capability an important element of national power end politics, scientific intelligence provides early warning against technological surprise or the advent of new weaponry. Scientific intelligence assessments determine who is ahead in science and technology—a major adjunct to strategic foreign policy development. The doctrine for scientific intelligence was first developed in England beginning in 1939 as information became available on new German developments in radar, bomber navigation, missiles and rockets, jet aircraft, atomic research, and chemical warfare (see “Scientific Intelligence,” by R.V. Jones, in section B below, and “The Wizard War” in Their Finest Hour[2], by Winston Churchill, in section A below). The United States began to develop its own doctrine somewhat later as information available indicated that Germany might beat us to the atomic bomb. See ALSOS[3], by Samuel Goudsmit, and The ALSOS Mission[4], by Colonel Boris T. Pash, both in section A below. See also Schaf’s “Evolution Of Modern Strategic Intelligence”—annotated in chapter 4, section A—for a detailed history of the development of scientific and technical intelligence from 1939 through 1964.

As in the case of so many other components of intelligence, World War II gave technical intelligence its impetus towards a separate specialty. Trained teams from the Army’s technical services scoured the battlefields of the world in search of new weapons and equipment that might give the enemy on edge, and even set up special combat operations in order to penetrate enemy territory and capture a new piece of material or a weapons specialist or designer. See The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions For War, by Green, Thomson, and Roots[5]. At home and abroad the navy end army air forces also had specialized technical intelligence collection teams to do the analytical and evaluation work on the captured material sent from the field. By 1943 a method had been worked out whereby analyses of the nameplates, markings, and serial numbers on captured weapons and equipment could be used to estimate enemy war production for strategic economic intelligence purposes and for the identification and location of factories for strategic bombing targeting. See “An Empirical Approach to Economic Intelligence in World War II,” by Ruggles and Brodie. And, as weapons research and development was mobilized in the United States under the National Defense Research Committee, civilian scientists of this program began to use the enemy material obtained by the technical intelligence teams as a basis for countermeasure and new weapons design.

The postwar emergence of intercontinental nuclear weaponry saw the merging of scientific and technical intelligence into a single element of strategic intelligence at-the national level. However, this same period was one in which direct access to foreign strategic intercontinental weapon systems for detailed and technical examination of characteristics and vulnerabilities was denied, although the Korean and Vietnam Wars provided opportunities for the capture “ and examination of foreign tactical weapons and equipment, and wars in the Middle East provided unique opportunities to examine late-model Soviet tactical materiel. See “Israel Offering to Barter Soviet Arms for the West’s,” by David Binder. The Moscow parades and flybys (called by some the “Moscow Disclosure System”) on May Day and Red October Day provided a few glimpses of new missiles and heavy bombers, although the potential here for strategic deception was extensive. In any case, such casual glimpses did not satisfy the need for technical, engineering, and performance details. Because of this, extensive research and development programs were undertaken in the mid-fifties to provide our intelligence people a capability to “see” new aircraft, missiles, and submarines, even while the submarines were still undergoing early test and evaluation. By means of high resolution-high altitude photography and by means of powerful radars, our intelligence people were able to “see” missiles on test stands or in test flight from great distances, and to “hear” the details of performance of missiles while in test flight by interception of the emitted telemetry signals. In the early days these scientific and technical intelligence collection means were shrouded in the highest secrecy—even from most officials in Washington. However, the downing of the U-2 plane provided one of the first glimpses of this enormous undertaking and gradually, over recent years, more and more details have become available for public viewing, Phillip J. Klass in his Secret Sentries In Space[6] has provided a remarkable expose of the development of these collection programs plus an analysis of why it was thought necessary to launch them. However secretly these means of collection of scientific and technical intelligence information are employed—some have termed them a form of technological espionage—they are now an accepted activity, at least between the governments of the United States and the USSR. In arms limitation agreements signed in Moscow they were called “National Means of Verification”; and the agreements included clauses to the effect that they were not to be interfered with or deceived.

The accomplishments of the long-range strategic surveillance sensors (aerial and space cameras, ever-the-horizon radars, telemetry and electronic intelligence interception systems, seismic sensors, etc.) in the cause of intelligence and national security have been spectacular and substantial. However, there are important characteristics of ballistic missile systems, bombers, and submarines that cannot be “seen” or “heard” by these means—leaving much room for interpretation. Consequently quite a lot of the strategic dialogue in this country (arms limitation and antiballistic missile discussions, nuclear test ban provisions, or Defense Department budget justifications to the Congress), is based on findings of these surveillance systems which are subject to widely varying interpretations; they may be perceived as threatening to the United States, or not, with seemingly equally convincing interpretations.

Actually there is no great lack of information available in the open literature on descriptions and characteristics of foreign weapons, weapon systems, and material. For example, in each of its weekly issues, Aviation Week And Space Technology provides a sort of current intelligence reporting on new aerospace weaponry as well as on U.S. and USSR reconnaissance and surveillance systems, and once each year publishes an inventory issue of all major foreign missile and aircraft characteristics. Interavia magazine does much the same thing, and Jane’s Fighting Ships, Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft, and Jane’s Weapon Systems are excellent technical intelligence handbooks with descriptions and characteristics of foreign material.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Preparedness Investigation Subcommittee. Hearings Before The Electronic Battlefield Sub-Committee. 92d Cong., 2nd sess., 1971. Rept. no. 53-830.

Details on the characteristics of new surveillance sensors developed by the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps and used in Vietnam and Laos to detect and locate enemy forces and for targeting air strikes against infiltration and supply trails.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Interim Report of The Subcommittee on The Cuban Military Buildup. 88th Cong., 1st sess., 1963. Rept. no. 98018.

A review of the military developments and intelligence activities and operations, primarily aerial photographic reconnaissance and surveillance, undertaken by all elements of the U.S. intelligence community in connection with the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services. Investigation into Electronic Battlefield Program. 92nd Cong., 1st sess., 1971. Rept. no. 56-743.

This report sets forth the findings and conclusions of an investigation into the development and use of new surveillance sensors used in South Vietnam and Laos to locate enemy forces.

  1. BOOKS

Babington-Smith, Constance (1957). Air Spy: The Story of Photo Intelligence In World War II. New York: Harper and Bros.

Blackmon, Raymond V.B. (1972), ed. Jane’s Fighting Ships. London: Jane’s Yearbooks; New York and Ontario: McGraw-Hill Co.

Bulloch, John (1961) and Henry Miller. Spy Ring: The Full Story of The Naval Secrets Case. London: Secker and Warburg

Churchill, Winston (1948, et al.). The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Vol. 5: Closing The Ring, pp. 226-40.

Churchill, Winston S, “Hitler’s Secret Weapon.” In Churchill, Winston (1948, et al.). The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, Vol. 5: Closing The Ring, pp. 226-40.

Churchill, Winston S. (1949) “The Wizard War.” In his The Second World War. Vol. 2: Their Finest Hour, pp. 381-97. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

Dulles, Allen W. “Collection—When the Machine Takes Over.” In Dulles, Allen W. (2006). The Craft of Intelligence: America’s Legendary Spy Master on the Fundamentals of Intelligence Gathering for a Free World. Guilford, CT: The Lyons Press, pp. 65-79.

Goddard, Brig. Gen. George W. (1969) with DeWitt S. Copp. Overview: A Life-Long Adventure in Aerial Photography. Garden City, New York: Doubleday

Goudsmit, Samuel A. (1947). ALSOS. New York: Henry Schuman

Green, Constance McLaughlin (1955), Harry C. Thomson, and Peter C. Roots. The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War. Department of the Army; Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office

Heiman, Grover (1972). Aerial Photography: The Story of Aerial Mapping And Reconnaissance. New York: Macmillan

Huminik, John (1967). Double Agent. New York: New American Library

Infield, Glenn B. (1970). Unarmed and Unafraid. New York: Macmillan

lrving, David (1967). The German Atomic Bomb: The History of Nuclear Research In Nazi Germany. New York: Simon & Schuster

Irving, David John Cawdell (1965). The Mare’s Nest. Boston, Little, Brown

Klass, Philip J. (1971). Secret Sentries in Space. New York, Random House

Langer, Walter C. (1972). The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report. New York: Basic Books

Lasby, Clarence G. (1971). Project Paperclip: German Scientists And The Cold War. New York: Atheneum

Leasor, James (1975). Green Beach. New York: William Morrow

Lovell, Stanley P. (1963). Of Spies And Strategems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall

McGovern, James (1964). Crossbow And Overcast. New York, W. Morrow

Martelli, George (1961). The Man Who Saved London: The Story of Michel Hollard, D. S. O., Croix de Guerre. New York: Doubleday

Medlicott, W. N. (1952, 1959). The Economic Blockade. London, H. M. Stationery Off.

Millar, George (1974). The Bruneval Raid: Stealing Hitler’s Radar. London: Cassell

Moorehead, Alan (1952). The Traitors: The Double Life of Fuchs, Pontecorvo, and Nunn May. London: Hamish Hamilton

Pash, Boris T. (1969). The ALSOS Mission. New York: Award House

Powers, Francis Gary (1970), with Curt Gentry. Operation Overflight: The U-2 Spy Pilot Tells His Story For The First Time. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston

Sanderson, James Dean (1959). Behind Enemy Lines. Princeton, NJ: Van Nostrand

Slater, Leonard (1970). The Pledge. New York: Simon and Schuster

Smith, John T., Jr. (1968), ed. in chief; Abraham Anson, assoc. ed. Manual of Color Aerial Photography. Falls Church, VA: American Society of Photogrammetry

Stevenson, William (1971). Zanek: A Chronicle of the Israeli Air Force. New York: Viking Press

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (1971). The Arms Trade With The Third World. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell; New York: Humanities Press

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) (1972) SIPRI Yearbook: World Armaments And Disarmament. Stockholm, Sweden: Almquist & Wiksell ; New York: Humanities Press; after 2009 Oxford : Oxford University Press

Translation World Publishers (1960). The Trial of U2; Exclusive Authorized Account of The Court Proceedings of The Case of Francis Gary Powers, Heard Before The Military Division of The Supreme Court of The U.S.S.R., Moscow, August 17, 18, 19, 1960. Chicago: Translation World Publishers

U.S. Department of Defense (1972). Statement of Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird before the House Subcommittee on Department of Defense Appropriations on the FY 1973 defense budget and FY 1973-1977 program, February 22, 1972.:National security strategy of realistic deterrence. Washington, DC U.S. Govt. Print Off. Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird’s annual Defense Department report

United States. Department of the Army (1966). Technical Intelligence, Field manual no. 30-16. Washington, DC: Dept. of the Army


Binder, David. “Israel Offering to Barter Soviet Arms for the West’s.” New York Times, (25 July 1967, p. 1.)

The article describes a novel development in technical intelligence: the offer by Israel of up-to-date Soviet weapons and equipment to the intelligence services of the West for characterization, analysis, and countermeasure development.

Coates, G.P. “Reconnaissance Satellites.” Spaceflight (3, May 1961, pp. 100-104).

An account of observation satellite orbits; photographic systems, both film-return and electro-optical; radar systems; and ground stations.

Frisbee, John L. “Electronic Warfare: Essential Element of Deterrence.” Air Force Magazine, (July 1972, pp. 36-41).

A useful review of the evolution of electronic warfare, and the implications of test cases of use of electronic warfare by U.S. aircraft in penetrating Soviet-made antiaircraft defenses in North Vietnam. The author assesses expected increased future importance of electronic warfare.

Galloway, Alec. “A Decade of U.S. Reconnaissance Satellites.” Interavia, (April 1972, pp. 376-80).

Traces, from available published literature, the development of photographic reconnaissance spacecraft in the United States.

Garwin, Richard L. “Antisubmarine Warfare and National Security.” Scientific American (227, July 1972, pp. 14-25).

A useful portrayal of the technical aspects of detection and identification of submerged submarines.

Germain, Jeon Rene. “Les Satellites de Reconnaissance.” Forces Aeriennes Francais (Paris) (266, February 1970, pp. 171-89).

A review of U.S. and USSR reconnaissance and surveillance spacecraft, with characteristics, launch, and retrieval systems described.

Greenwood, Ted, “Reconnaissance and Arms Control.” Scientific American (228, February 1973, pp. 14-19).

Greenwood’s article is based on his paper, “Reconnaissance, Surveillance And Arms Control” (see below). This later version includes excellent diagrams and photographs.

Greenwood, Ted, “Reconnaissance, Surveillance And Arms Control”. Adelphi Papers, no. 88. London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, (June 1972).

The author discusses the advantages of reconnaissance and surveillance systems over other methods of intelligence gathering as a means of verifying and monitoring arms control agreements that affect national security. He provides technical descriptions and applications of photographic and electronic reconnaissance space systems as well as the use of radar, over-the-horizon radar, satellite systems, and shipboard sensors as means of surveillance of missile tests, A useful bibliography of seventy-five entries of separate magazine and newspaper articles is included.

Hersh, Seymour. “CIA Salvage Ship Brought Up Port of Soviet Sub Lost in 1968, Failed to Raise Atom Missiles.” New York Times, (19 March 1975, pp. 1, 48).

The article exposes details of project JENNIFER, a remarkable technical intelligence operation in which U.S. intelligence retrieved ports of a 1958-madel Soviet submarine in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii in water three miles deep. Information is provided on how intelligence contracted with Howard Hughes to have constructed a specially designed deep sea recovery vessel—the Glomar Explorer—plus a companion submersible recovery barge, designated the HMB-1, in which to transport the recovered submarine parts on the surface but hidden from view. See also the fol lowing detailed and well-illustrated articles, “The Great Submarine Snatch.” Time, (31 March 1975, pp. 20-27), and “CIA’s Mission Impossible”, Newsweek, (31 March 1975, pp. 24-32).

Jones,. R. V. “Scientific Intelligence.” Journal Of The Royal United Service Institution (London) (92, August 1947, pp.352-69).

A summary of the scientific and technical intelligence activities of the air staff in England during World War II by the man who pioneered this effort and developed its doctrine and philosophy. The article is chiefly concerned with detecting German developments in radio-navigational aids, radar, flying bombs, long-range rockets, and atomic weaponry.

Jones,. R. V. “Scientific Intelligence”, Research (London), (9, September 1956, pp. 347-352).

The importance of scientific and technical intelligence, both in revealing intentions of a potential enemy and in anticipating the enemy’s application of science and technology to weaponry is brought out by Jones, using his wartime experiences as illustrations regarding intelligence organization and procedures.

Katz, Amrom H. “Observation Satellites; Problems and Prospects.” Astronautics (5, April 1960, pp. 26-29ff); (June 1960, pp. 26-29, 52-54); (July 1960, PP. 28-29, 80-85); (August 1960, PP. 30-31, 59-64); (September 1960, pp. 32-33, 40-46); (October 1960, pp. 36-37, 66-71). Also published as Observation Satellites: Problems, Possibilities And Prospects. RAND Paper P-1707. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corp., (25 May 1959).

An introduction to almost every aspect of observation satellites, including what might be observed and recorded, the sensors, the resolutions achievable, the advantages of both video return and film return systems, and use for international arms control inspection. The author, a pioneer in aerial reconnaissance with the air force and head of RAND’s Intelligence and Reconnaissance Group, is now with the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Extensive and useful bibliography.

Klass, Philip J. “More Spies in the Sky: How U .S.-Russia Watch Each Other.” U.S. News & World Report, (13 August 1973, pp. 27-28).

A comparison of U.S. and Soviet reconnaissance programs shows that since 1968 the USSR has had a seven-to-one edge on numbers of spy satellites launched, Interprets meaning of U.S.-Russian arms limitation agreements in terms of capabilities of national technical means of verification.

Klass, Philip J. “Soviets Push Ocean Surveillance.” Aviation Week & Space Technology, (10 September 1973, pp. 12-13).

A comparison of and U.S. ocean surveillance capabilities in which the Soviets are considered to be ahead, routinely using photo-reconnaissance spacecraft to locate elements of the U.S. fleet and to photograph shore installations.

“Reconnaissance and Surveillance.” Data: Magazine Of Military RDT&E Management (12, April 1967, pp. 11-63).

This entire issue of Data is devoted to articles by Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps specialists on tactical reconnaissance and tactical and strategic surveillance. Of note is an introductory article by Senator Strom Thurmond, “The Growth of Reconnaissance and Surveillance in Political Decisions,” pp. 11-12:

Ruggles, Richard, and Henry Brodie. “An Empirical Approach to Economic Intelligence in World War II.” Journal of The American Statistical Association (42, March 1947, pp. 72-91).

In early 1943 the Economic Warfare Division of the American embassy in London started a program of utilizing technical intelligence information for economic intelligence purposes. The technique of analyzing markings and serial numbers obtained from captured German weapons and equipment was developed as a means of obtaining accurate estimates of German war production and strength. The authors describe the development of this technique end compare the accuracy of wartime estimates of production of certain items of weapons and equipment with the official statistics which became available on German war production at the end of the conflict.

Simons, Howard. “Our Eye in the Sky,” Washington Post, (8 December 1963, p. E2).

Traces the early development of the Samos observation satellite with some analysis of political implications and Soviet reaction.

“Spies in Space: They Make an Open Book of Russia.” U .S. News & World Report, (9 September 1968, pp. 69-72).

A compilation of data on U.S. intelligence capabilities in space observation at the time of the Czechoslovakian crisis of 1968.

Trainor, James. “Cuba Missile Threat Detailed.” Missiles And Rockets, (29 October 1962, pp. 12-14, 47).

Details the types and locations of Russian missiles deployed in Cuba. Uses annotated aerial reconnaissance photographs to develop the story.

U.S. Congress. House. Committee on Armed Services. The Changing Strategic Military Balance: USA vs. USSR. 90th Cong., 1st sess., (July 1967. Rept. no. 80-785).

This interesting comparison of strategic weaponry of the United States and the USSR was prepared by a special subcommittee of the National Strategy Committee of the American Security Council at the request of the House Committee on Aimed Services. The scientific and technical weapons assessment and comparison was based on unclassified sources only and demonstrates the amount of detail on foreign (USSR) intercontinental ballistic missiles, intermediate and medium range ballistic missiles, antimissile missiles, submarine-launched missiles, strategic bombers, and space weapons that is available in the open literature.

U.S. Congress. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Hearings on Status of Current Technology to Identify Seismic Events As Natural or Man-Made. 92d Cong., 1st sess., 1971.

A review of the technology available and seismic means used to detect and identify nuclear underground explosions in order to assess the reliability of national means of verification in event of complete test ban agreements.

U.S. Congress. Joint Committee on Atomic Energy. Soviet Atomic Espionage. 82d Cong., 1st sess., April 1951. Rept. no. 810951.

Part 1 of this study seeks to develop factual, authentic information about the four known atomic spies—Fuchs, Pontecorvo, May, and Greenglass—and the courier Gold. Parts 2 and 3 deal with allegations of spying for the USSR during World War II and with information relating to serious security breaches.

U.S. Congress. Senate. Committee on Aeronautical & Space Programs. Soviet Space Programs, 1966-70. 92d Cong., 1st sess ., 9 December 1971. Doc, no. 92-51. Staff report prepared by the Congressional Research Service and Law Library of the Library of Congress. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1971.

Dr. Charles S. Sheldon II, foremost authority on Soviet space activities, directed the preparation of this complete and factual report. See especially chapter 9, which is devoted to photographic and electronic intelligence satellites.


[1] Department of Defense (1972). Department of Defense Dictionary of Military And Associated Terms. Washington, D.C. : Joint Chiefs of Staff. [LCCN: 90657655; electronic link]

[2] Churchill, Winston (1948, et al.). The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

[3] Goudsmit, Samuel A. (1947). ALSOS. New York: Henry Schuman

[4] Pash, Boris T. (1969). The ALSOS Mission. New York: Award House

[5] Green, Constance McLaughlin (1955), Harry C. Thomson, and Peter C. Roots. The Ordnance Department: Planning Munitions for War. Department of the Army; Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office

[6] Klass, Philip J. (1971). Secret Sentries in Space. New York, Random House

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2 Responses to Scientific and Technical Intelligence, Chapter 10

  1. Pingback: Communications and Electronic Intelligence, Chapter 112 | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

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