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ELINT (electronic intelligence)

Contributor(s): Matthew Haughn

Electronic intelligence (ELINT) is intelligence gathered by the use of electronic sensors.

In ELINT, intelligence gathered is generally those other than personal communications. The purpose is often to ascertain the capabilities of a target, such as the location of radar. The sensors used to gather that data may be active or passive. A given signal is analyzed and compared to recorded data for known signal types. If the signal type is recognized, that information can be recorded; it can be classified as new if no match is returned. Data gathered by ELINT is generally classified.

Intelligence, in a military context (and others, such as business, that have adopted the usage), is information that gives an organization support for making decisions that can give them a strategic advantage over the competition. The term is often abbreviated as “intel.”

ELINT and communications intelligence (COMINT) are the two main sub-fields of signals intelligence (SIGINT). The terms are defined by the United States Department of Defense and the categories of studied data are used by intelligence communities in developed nations the world over.

This was last updated in May 2015

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