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The utility of an image is an attribute that describes the ability of that image to satisfy performance requirements for a particular application. This paper establishes the context for spectral image utility by first reviewing traditional approaches to assessing panchromatic image utility and then discussing differences for spectral imagery. We define spectral image utility for the subpixel target detection application as the area under the receiver operating curve summarized across a range of target detection scenario parameters. We propose a new approach to assessing the utility of any spectral image for any target type and size and detection algorithm. Using six airborne hyperspectral images, we demonstrate the sensitivity of the assessed image utility to various target detection scenario parameters and show the flexibility of this approach as a tool to answer specific user information requirements. The results of this investigation lead to a better understanding of spectral image information vis-a-vis target detection performance and provide a step toward quantifying the ability of a spectral image to satisfy information exploitation requirements.