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A reconnaissance aircraft (colloquially, a spy plane) is a military aircraft designed or adapted to perform aerial reconnaissance with roles including collection of imagery intelligence (including using photography), signals intelligence, as well as measurement and signature intelligence. Modern technology has also enabled some aircraft and UAVs to carry out real-time surveillance in addition to general intelligence gathering.
Before the development of devices such as radar, military forces relied on reconnaissance aircraft for visual observation and scouting of enemy movement. An example is the PBY Catalina maritime patrol flying boat used by the Allies in World War II: a flight of U.S. Navy Catalinas spotted part of the Japanese fleet approaching Midway Island, beginning the Battle of Midway.
Prior to the 20th century machines for powered and controllable flight were not available to military forces, but some attempts were made to use lighter than air craft. During the Napoleonic Wars and Franco-Prussian War, balloons were used for aerial reconnaissance by the French.
In World War I, aircraft were deployed during early phases of battle in reconnaissance roles as 'eyes of the army' to aid ground forces.Aerial reconnaissance from this time through 1945 was mostly carried out by adapted versions of standard fighters and bombers equipped with film cameras. Photography became the primary and best-known method of intelligence collection for reconnaissance aircraft by the end of World War II.
After World War II and during the Cold War the United States developed several dedicated reconnaissance aircraft designs, including the U-2 and SR-71, to monitor the nuclear threat from the Soviet Union.Other types of reconnaissance aircraft were built for specialized roles in signals intelligence and electronic monitoring, such as the RB-47, Boeing RC-135 and the Ryan Model 147 drones.
Since the Cold War much of the strategic reconnaissance aircraft role has passed over to satellites,and the tactical role to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). This has been proven in successful uses by Israel, and by the United States in Desert Storm operations.
The Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), formed in March 1921, is the aerial warfare branch of the Australian Defence Force (ADF). It operates the majority of the ADF's fixed wing aircraft, although both the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy also operate aircraft in various roles. It directly continues the traditions of the Australian Flying Corps (AFC), formed on 22 October 1912. The RAAF provides support across a spectrum of operations such as air superiority, precision strikes, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, air mobility, space surveillance, and humanitarian support.
A surveillance aircraft is an aircraft used for surveillance. They are operated by military forces and other government agencies in roles such as intelligence gathering, battlefield surveillance, airspace surveillance, reconnaissance, observation, border patrol and fishery protection. This article concentrates on aircraft used in those roles, rather than for traffic monitoring, law enforcement and similar activities.
A military aircraft is any fixed-wing or rotary-wing aircraft that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service of any type. Military aircraft can be either combat or non-combat:
An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) is an aircraft without a human pilot on board and a type of unmanned vehicle. UAVs are a component of an unmanned aircraft system (UAS); which include a UAV, a ground-based controller, and a system of communications between the two. The flight of UAVs may operate with various degrees of autonomy: either under remote control by a human operator or autonomously by onboard computers.
Aerial warfare is the battlespace use of military aircraft and other flying machines in warfare. Aerial warfare includes bombers attacking enemy installations or a concentration of enemy troops or strategic targets; fighter aircraft battling for control of airspace; attack aircraft engaging in close air support against ground targets; naval aviation flying against sea and nearby land targets; gliders, helicopters and other aircraft to carry airborne forces such as paratroopers; aerial refueling tankers to extend operation time or range; and military transport aircraft to move cargo and personnel. Historically, military aircraft have included lighter-than-air balloons carrying artillery observers; lighter-than-air airships for bombing cities; various sorts of reconnaissance, surveillance and early warning aircraft carrying observers, cameras and radar equipment; torpedo bombers to attack enemy shipping; and military air-sea rescue aircraft for saving downed airmen. Modern aerial warfare includes missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles. Surface forces are likely to respond to enemy air activity with anti-aircraft warfare.
Naval aviation is the application of military air power by navies, whether from warships that embark aircraft, or land bases.
Military aviation is the use of military aircraft and other flying machines for the purposes of conducting or enabling aerial warfare, including national airlift capacity to provide logistical supply to forces stationed in a theater or along a front. Airpower includes the national means of conducting such warfare, including the intersection of transport and war craft. Military aircraft include bombers, fighters, transports, trainer aircraft, and reconnaissance aircraft.
UAVs include both autonomous drones and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). A UAV is capable of controlled, sustained level flight and is powered by a jet, reciprocating, or electric engine. In the twenty first century technology reached a point of sophistication that the UAV is now being given a greatly expanded role in many areas of aviation.
The 11th Attack Squadron is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the 432d Wing Air Combat Command at Creech Air Force Base near Indian Springs, Nevada. It flies General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper Unmanned aerial vehicles. In 1995 the 11th became the first Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) squadron in the Air Force.
The 13th Intelligence Squadron is part of the 548th Intelligence Group at Beale Air Force Base. It is one of the exploitation units for the Lockheed U-2, MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft conducting reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
Aerial reconnaissance is reconnaissance for a military or strategic purpose that is conducted using reconnaissance aircraft. The role of reconnaissance can fulfil a variety of requirements including artillery spotting, the collection of imagery intelligence, and the observation of enemy maneuvers.
Between 1946 and 1960, the United States Air Force conducted aerial reconnaissance flights over the Soviet Union in order to determine the size, composition, and disposition of Soviet forces. Aircraft used included the Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber and—from 1956—the Lockheed U-2 spy plane specifically designed for high-altitude reconnaissance flight. The overflight program was ended following the 1960 U-2 incident.
Aerial reconnaissance using heavier-than-air machines was an entirely new science that had to be improvised step-by-step. Early operations were low-level flights with the pilot often dismounting from the plane to report verbally to the nearest officers. Photographic support was urgently developed, initially requiring a full-time photographer on board to handle the heavy, awkward equipment. The interpreting of aerial images was an important new speciality, essential for accurate mapping. By 1915, air-to-ground radio was in use for reconnaissance pilots.
The Lockheed Martin SR-72 is an American hypersonic UAV concept intended for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Lockheed Martin privately proposed it to succeed the retired Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird.
The Northrop Grumman RQ-180 is an American stealth unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) surveillance aircraft intended for contested airspace. There have been no images or statements released, but growing evidence points to the existence of the RQ-180 and its use in regular front-line service.
The Boeing MQ-25 Stingray is an aerial refueling drone that resulted from the Carrier-Based Aerial-Refueling System (CBARS) program, which grew out of the earlier Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program. The MQ-25 first flew on 19 September 2019.
Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201 or TAPAS BH-201 is a long endurance Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which used to be previously referred as Rustom-II, being developed by India on the lines of the American Predator drones. First flight of the UAV took place in November 2016 after a 3-year delay. It was revealed at that time that the UAV has been renamed from Rustom-II to TAPAS-BH-201, an acronym for Tactical Airborne Platform for Aerial Surveillance-Beyond Horizon-201. Rustom-II was commonly believed to be an Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle(UCAV) but at the press conference S Christopher, Director General of DRDO stated "Media reports are incorrect. Tapas is an UAV and not an UCAV."
The Aequare was an unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Lockheed Missiles and Space Company for the United States Air Force. It was intended for launch from a F-4 Phantom II fighter-bomber, and would carry a remote sensor array and laser designator for use by the launching aircraft. The system was evaluated in the mid 1970s, but did not enter operational service.