How this secretive Wright-Patt unit grew into one of the country’s most important watchdogs

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Air and Space Intelligence Center knows our adversaries secrets

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) is the Air Force unit tasked with keeping tabs on other countries’ weapons and personnel in the air and in space.

NASIC is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base with a unit at the Springfield Air National Guard base, and its roots began less than eight miles away at McCook Army Air Field in Dayton during World War I as the Foreign Data Section of the Army’s Airplane Engineering Department.

READ MORE: Secretive NASIC work at Wright Patt ‘difference between war and peace’

U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
U.S. Air Force National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

A big part of NASIC’s work involves studying captured planes, missiles, satellites and related equipment to better understand the capabilities of U.S. adversaries. This started with a captured German Fokker D.VII biplane in World War I and continues today, in secrecy.

The military hardware is studied to reveal the design, engineering and materials of the weapon, its propulsion system and electronics and even how it flies or is operated.

RELATED: 7 artifacts you can’t see at the Air Force Musem: A peek inside the storage hangar

Through the years, the name of the operation has changed many times but the core mission has remained the same.

World War II: The Technical Data Laboratory (TDL) studied many different Axis fighters, including German Me-262 jet fighters and Japanese A6M Zeros.

Post-World War II: T-2 Intelligence formed from TDL to include air intelligence, translated and distributed foreign language documents and air intelligence products. It even fired a rocket motor from a wrecked German V-2.

Early Cold War: In 1951, T-2 became the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC). It worked to exploit the captured Russian MiG-15 fighters, Yakolev and Ilyushin aircraft from the Korean War.

Vietnam era: In 1961, ATIC became the Foreign Technology Division (FTD). It exploited captured MiG-17, Mig-21, MiG-23 aircraft.

RELATED: Some of the U.S.'s most secretive work will be done in a new NASIC building

End of the Cold War: In 1993, FTD became the National Air Intelligence Center (NAIC). A new Foreign Materiel Exploitation facility was built to accommodate MiG-23, Su-22, 22  MiG-29 fighters and 507 air-to-air missiles.

04-14-05 -- Col. Joseph J. Pridotkas, Commander, National Air and space Intelligence Center, with a MiG-29 that is the only visual reference to the building on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the Air Force studies information on foreign aerospace threats. Ty Greenlees/DDN
04-14-05 -- Col. Joseph J. Pridotkas, Commander, National Air and space Intelligence Center, with a MiG-29 that is the only visual reference to the building on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base where the Air Force studies information on foreign aerospace threats. Ty Greenlees/DDN

Post-Sept. 11, 2001: In 2003, NAIC became the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC). The largest cache of foreign flight equipment was moved to the U.S. since World War II.  Aircraft, missiles and associated support equipment was shipped from Iraq and Afghanistan, including a MiG-25RB.

MiG-25 Foxbat inside the restoration and storage hangars at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.  This MiG was discovered buried in the sand by the U.S. Army in Iraq, 2003.  TY GREENLEES / STAFF
MiG-25 Foxbat inside the restoration and storage hangars at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. This MiG was discovered buried in the sand by the U.S. Army in Iraq, 2003. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

In addition to the hardware, NASIC is steeped in information gathering that is managed and analyzed by more than 3,000 workers at the center to keep the Air Force informed and prepared.

Staff Sgt. Kacper Sovinski, Geospatial Intelligence Analysis Squadron research and development project manager, upgrades data drives for the airborne sensor servers July 17 at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Sovinski was recently named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year by the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko)
Staff Sgt. Kacper Sovinski, Geospatial Intelligence Analysis Squadron research and development project manager, upgrades data drives for the airborne sensor servers July 17 at the National Air and Space Intelligence Center, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Sovinski was recently named one of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year by the Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Jonathan Stefanko)

Credit: HANDOUT

Credit: HANDOUT

NASIC recently tripled the size of its Foreign Materiel Exploitation facility by adding Haynes Hall at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The National Air and Space Intelligence Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Haynes Hall facility on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.  The $29.5 million, 58,000 square-foot facility resembles a large airplane hangar and will be used for foreign materiel exploitation according to NASIC Commander, Col. Sean P. Larkin.   TY GREENLEES / STAFF
The National Air and Space Intelligence Center held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new Haynes Hall facility on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The $29.5 million, 58,000 square-foot facility resembles a large airplane hangar and will be used for foreign materiel exploitation according to NASIC Commander, Col. Sean P. Larkin. TY GREENLEES / STAFF

In Other News