Besides soaking up communications, other spy systems are designed to provide pictures and images to military planners.
Eyes in the sky
Satellites and the U-2 aircraft, which fly above 70,000 feet and require the pilot to don a pressurized suit, are providing many of the photos used by NATO planners as well as Pentagon press briefers.
The Keyhole satellite has electronic cameras that provide real-time pictures. And the film has a high resolution, approaching 10 centimeters. It also has an infrared capability, meaning it can detect heat sources, such as camouflaged tanks or buried structures.
But Keyhole cannot see through clouds, a significant failing in a cloudy region like Yugoslavia. The Lacrosse/Vega satellite has the ability to transmit the blotchy radar images that the trained eye could identify and track as tanks or other military vehicles.
Some of the intelligence systems have been used in the Balkans during the recent Bosnian campaign. Joint STARS proved that it could be useful in adverse weather conditions and rough terrain, according to the Federation of American Scientists.
"Planners initially believed that three continuous orbits would cover the theater of a major theater war," said the FAS. "But experience in Bosnia's mountainous terrain suggests even smaller operations might require more than three continuously orbiting aircraft."
Besides picking out targets and watching for troop movements, the satellites and aircraft in Kosovo are also watching what is staying put.
Satellites are able to show that the Yugoslav navy heeded the warnings of U.S. Army Gen. Wesley K. Clark to remain in port or risk attack. Intelligence was able to show that Yugoslav ships in Kotor Bay, for example, were dispatched inside three 230-foot storage tunnels, officials said.
Plans for oil blockade
Other aircraft will be important for the coming oil blockade of Yugoslavia, trying to prevent tankers from heading into the port of Bar in Montenegro, Serbia's sister republic.
The Navy's P-3 Orion will offer intelligence assistance to the NATO ships, with the ability to not only detect vessels but also to pick up any transmissions from the tankers and other cargo ships, according to Navy officials.
Pentagon sources say the Serbs are no match for NATO's intelligence-gathering apparatus.
The Serbs rely on such primitive means as binocular-wielding spotters at alliance airports, watching particular aircraft take off and notifying Belgrade officials by cell phone.
And the Russian intelligence ship that is tailing the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and its battle group is of little concern to intelligence professionals. The Russians have not kept up with the changes in technology since the end of the Cold War, said one Navy source, and the United States takes numerous steps to make sure its communications are secure.
Despite the sophisticated, gee-whiz trappings of U.S. intelligence, some military officials say it is deficient in one key area: human spies on the ground.
That is NATO's "greatest deficiency," said retired U.S. Army Gen. George A. Joulwan, who preceded Clark as the alliance's supreme commander.
"We have great technical means but not the best means," he said, "which is two eyeballs."
Pub Date: 5/02/99