An Unclassified Geospatial Intelligence Analysis of the Capabilities of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy Using Google Earth
Green, Thomas A.
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This paper aims to determine whether or not Google Earth is a useful tool to conduct geospatial intelligence analysis at an unclassified level over an area that poses a threat to U.S. National Security. This study leverages existing high-resolution commercial imagery to analyze port facilities within the southern Persian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, and Gulf of Oman that maintains a possible Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGCN) presence. It was found Google Earth could be a useful alternative to conduct temporal analysis over an area of interest, but not recommended for timely review. The gaps in imagery did, however, assist in determining three key findings based on imagery observations. These three findings are: construction remains on-going at likely most IRGCN ports, civilian ports are near or are part of a possible IRGCN port, and gaps in imagery collection preclude complete construction chronologies for all the targets on the list. There is moderate confidence with these findings that Iran will leverage the IRGCN within the southern Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz to gain naval superiority within the region. The geospatial evidence for this strategy includes a continuation of bolstering defenses at port facilities to improve infrastructure and an increase in naval presence. Open-source reporting also assists imagery observations with identifying a layered defense strategy, including the presence of anti-ship and hybrid air-to-air defense weapons and an increase of fast-attack small boats at several port facilities. The baseline descriptions of these facilities support key findings and implications about the extent of Iranian construction efforts to possible IRGCN port facilities. There is moderate confidence these construction efforts will allow Iran to use IRGCN to employ the country’s passive defense theory. This theory consists of the employment of hybrid warfare, which allows a naval force to mobilize, intimate, and provoke neighboring countries and potentially overcome more superior naval forces without direct conflict. Despite the key findings, implications, and facility descriptions observed in imagery, there remains a large amount of uncertainty. The exclusive usage of Google Earth as a tool to conduct geospatial intelligence analysis is inadequate for timely imagery analysis; however, it is useful for a multi-year study.