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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.



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

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