Once the darling of the western weapons world in Iraq and Afghanistan, the realm of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) has joined the rest of the defense sector in struggling to adapt to a post-war normal. Spending on ISR - also referred to ISTAR, when meaning targeting - must both compete with other weapons priorities, while also be prioritized and allocated toward the most likely best uses for the future, versus what served western troops fighting relatively crudely equipped and trained insurgents.
That means airships, at one time a seemingly obvious benefactor of ISR spending, may not get off the ground after all. While big-bus satellites may have rediscovered their importance in tactical-level operations.
Moreover, what are the lessons learned over the past decade, which saw ISR and its most prominent platform, the UAV, enter kitchen table language around the world? What do we do about a fleet of UAVs so geared around use in a permissive environment? And as has happened with every other warfighting capability, what happens when adversaries learn how to do it too?
Aviation Week & Space Technology will explore these issues at depth in our Feb. 18 issue, with reports from Washington to London to Paris.