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  • Repairing Combat ISR
    Posted by David A. Fulghum 1:14 PM on Apr 15, 2010

    Congressional investigators contend that combat ISR is in trouble, swamped by data and starved of trained help.

    Air Force officials, at least, say solutions are on the way.

    Government Accountability Office testimony to the House subcommittee on Air and Land Forces and Seapower and Expeditionary Forces says the Defense Department has not developed a concept of operations that provides direction and priorities for sharing intelligence information within the defense intelligence community.

    “[The Pentagon] continues to invest in ISR assets, requesting approximately $6.1 billion in fiscal 2010 for new unmanned aircraft … alone,” says Davi D’Agostino, GAO’s director of defense capabilities and management. “[However,] that rapid increase in collected information overwhelms current ISR capabilities and much of the collected data is never analyzed. [Central Command] exploits less than one-half of the electronic signals intercepts collected from the Predator. Files from wide-area sensors have to be saved to a computer disk and flown back to the United States … because current networks in the theater … cannot handle the large amounts of data these sensors collect.”

    But there are a number of solutions being worked, says the Air Force’s top ISR official.

    The development of large format sensors and high-definition full-motion video sensors – such as the new Gorgon Stare multi-image sensor for UAVs and Project Liberty’s MC-12W – will stress Defense Dept. communications, researchers agree. But the service is working on initiatives to incorporate the new sensors into the existing processing, exploitation and dissemination architecture.

    “Our first step for Gorgon Stare is to adapt Project Liberty’s ISR exploitation cell (ISREC) model,” says Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, deputy chief of staff for ISR. “The focus of the approach is to [complete] all time-critical processing, exploitation and dissemination [PED] in theater [while] forensics [are completed in the U.S.]. But this is only a temporary solution. One shortcoming is its ability to take full advantage of existing Air Force distributed common ground system [DCGS] capabilities to fuse and cross-cue with other ISR sources.”

    To correct that problem, Air Force DCGS architecture in being enhanced for expeditionary forces. That approach will still rely on larger reach-back capabilties but create more OED capability in forward areas.

    In addition Gorgon Stare tests will be conducted this month, and in June Air Combat Command is expected to take delivery of the first system and quickly move it to Afghanistan where it will enable a single remotely piloted aircraft to create 10 independent video feeds plus an additional 50 video streams to a dedicated ground station.

    “[Moreover,] Valiant Angel, a Joint Forces Command initiative, will improve access to motion video and images,” Deptula says. “The Air Force is supporting its development  by providing data from MQ-1 and MQ-9 full-motion video and imagery from Gorgon Stare.”

    Valiant Angel will be connected to the National Geospatial Agency’s (NGA) video architecture initiative. The Air Force will use its image access solutions (IAS) system to deliver time-sensitive ISR data to low-bandwidth users. In the next few months, both NGA and the Air Force will expand access to International Security Assistance Force and coalition partners in theater.

    Tags: ar99, ISR, GAO, Deptula, MC-12W. MQ-9, ValiantAngel

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