The German Army’s diversity is reflected in its different branches. Each of these branches has its very own set of distinct skills and capabilities, yet they are at their strongest and most successful only when they work together. Specialised equipment is used to overcome a wide variety of challenges. Learn more about the ISR Corps.
The Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, or ISR, Corps is a branch of the Army. It is part of the combat service and command support forces and was activated on 6 March 2008 by the Chief of the Army. Its soldiers are referred to as reconnaissance troops or, colloquially, as scouts. They wear black berets and, in the tradition of the cavalry, golden-yellow braids and collar patches. Personnel assigned to the Division Schnelle Kräfte (DSK), or Rapid Response Forces Division, wear a maroon beret. The cap badge shows two crossed lances. They are reminiscent of the branch’s cavalry origin.
The primary task of the branch is to conduct reconnaissance – in other words, to gather information about opposing forces (such as enemy soldiers) and the terrain. The ISR Corps is the mainstay of Army reconnaissance and intelligence collection activities. It is part of the integrated intelligence collection and reconnaissance system of the armed forces.
Collecting information on crisis areas
Intelligence collection and reconnaissance is a joint task throughout the Bundeswehr. It is not limited to the Army and is fully effective only when different systems interact with one another in a system of systems. The result is a comprehensive, up-to-date situation picture. All forces engaged in intelligence collection and reconnaissance collect and capture situationally relevant information and intelligence around the world on areas of interest, crisis areas and areas of operation, and evaluate and disseminate the data to the user.
The ISR Corps is the mainstay of Army reconnaissance. Its structure and procedures are designed to meet the commander’s information requirements in the field and to provide a comprehensive situation picture with as few gaps as possible. The ISR Corps can also complement, consolidate, and verify reconnaissance results provided by other reconnaissance assets. In so doing, it also makes an important contribution to in-theatre force protection.
The branch is headed by the Director, ISR Corps, who is also the Commandant of the Army ISR Training Division at Munster. This is the central training facility of the ISR Corps.
The ISR Corps is equipped with a variety of different technologies and equipment. For instance, its soldiers use various types of vehicle, such as the Dingo all-protected carrier vehicle, the Fennek reconnaissance vehicle and the Fuchs armoured transport vehicle.
Unmanned aerial vehicles such as the ALADIN, KZO and LUNA reconnaissance systems are also available to ISR Corps personnel.
The ISR Corps
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The Fennek reconnaissance vehicle is the main weapon system of the ISR Corps.
Due to its low profile, it is already difficult to observe from afar. Flattened vehicle contours reduce surface reflection, protecting the vehicle from an adversary’s radar. The Fennek is very quiet. It has a powerpack with a reduced acoustic signature so that it can stay undetected for as long as possible. It is also equipped with a wide array of sensors. The interaction of the various sensors enables ground-based, long-range scout reconnaissance.
A core component of the Fennek is its BAA on-board observation and reconnaissance equipment. It includes a daylight camera, a laser range finder and a cooled thermal imager. The cooling reduces the temperature of the imager itself, thus improving its reconnaissance capability. This high-tech triad detects targets at a distance of up to 10 kilometres. The identified coordinates are fed directly into the Army’s command and control and information system.
The observation and reconnaissance equipment is mounted on a telescopic mast that can be extended up to one metre and rotated 360 degrees. The crew can also use the observation and reconnaissance equipment without the mast for dismounted observation. A few steps are enough to remove the equipment from the vehicle and to place it on a tripod in another location. A cable ensures a steady connection to the vehicle. The crew uses the control panel inside the vehicle to operate the observation and reconnaissance equipment. Remotely operating the equipment is particularly suited for observation missions from concealed or hidden positions when mounted observation is impossible.
The ISR Corps uses drones and combat vehicles to collect information. Read on to find out why the cavalry, the precursor of the ISR Corps, used to be equipped with horses.
The ISR Corps is a separate branch of the Bundeswehr and was activated on 6 March 2008 by the Chief of the Army. It traces its roots back to the cavalry. Cavalry are soldiers mounted on horseback. The use of horses enabled the cavalry to quickly cover great distances and to cross difficult terrain. As a distinctive visual signal for use in combat, the different cavalry units each had their own lance colour. In the Prussian Army of Frederick the Great, the cavalry units were already equipped with lances, which were adopted throughout the rest of the cavalry in 1889. The lances on the cap badge of the ISR Corps can be traced back to this tradition.
Until the end of World War I, the cavalry was an important element of the Prussian armed forces. Due to its mobility, speed and fighting capability, the cavalry was the bane of the regular infantry. In addition to its combat mission, the cavalry was required particularly for reconnaissance in difficult terrain, thanks to its speed and mobility.
Activation and pooling of capabilities in 2008
Prior to 2008, Army reconnaissance assets were geographically and organisationally dispersed among various branches and commanded at different echelons. Training and further development took place in several locations and under different authorities: Idar-Oberstein for LUNA and KZO UAS training, Diez an der Lahn for human intelligence personnel, Calw for the further development and Pfullendorf for the training of long-range reconnaissance forces, Munich for the further development of electronic warfare in the Army, and Munster for scout reconnaissance.
To achieve information superiority and to increase efficiency – particularly on operations – the ISR Corps was activated in 2008 and assigned the reconnaissance, long-range reconnaissance, human intelligence and airborne imagery reconnaissance forces. The principle of “one-stop reconnaissance” was successfully implemented and competencies were pooled.
Now, for the first time in the history of the Bundeswehr, the reconnaissance forces of the Army have been consolidated under one single command in Munster.