Posts tagged ‘surveillance and reconnaissance’

SPECIAL OPERATIONS: SOCOM Wants to Kick Addiction to Airborne Recon

SOCOM’s ISR Roadmap.

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

An MQ-9 Reaper takes off in Afghanistan (Air Force photo)

TAMPA, Florida — U.S. commando forces have a virtual “chemical dependence” on air assets for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data, and U.S. Special Operations Command wants to kick the habit, says SOCOM’s intel capabilities and requirements chief.

U.S. Air Force Colonel Matthew Atkins says 80 percent of SOCOM’s ISR comes from air assets, both manned and unmanned. “This is where our spending and our resource investment has been,” Atkins told a briefing at a special operations conference Wednesday (May 20) on SOCOM’s ISR Road Map.

The ISR roadmap calls for sustaining existing large and expensive ISR air assets like the Air Force MQ-9 Reaper or the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle — both of them unmanned aircraft — while investing in newer, simpler aircraft. The roadmap makes “one thing abundantly clear,” according to Atkins. “We need to reduce our reliance on airborne platforms,” he said, adding that airborne ISR “is not always available and is often the most costly” way to gather intelligence.

So SOCOM will be putting considerable energy into exploring and expanding ground-based and maritime-based ISR, “because that’s where we see the most cost benefit analysis,” Atkins said. Space and cyber-based capabilities will also be studied to enhance special ops missions and to deliver precision intelligence.

The command will need technological help from industry to solve the data transport problem. And because SOCOM will be relying increasingly on partner militaries, it will require ISR platforms to be affordable and employable by partners, with the intelligence sharing components “essentially baked in” to facilitate cooperation.

MQ-7 Raven small unmanned aircraft  (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

RQ-11 Raven small unmanned aircraft
(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. First Class Michael Guillory)

Atkins said SOCOM is seeing a tremendous demand from partner nations to teach — not only ISR acquisition — but how to use the information in what SOCOM calls foreign internal defense — training foreign militaries how to defend their territory and people themselves and rely less on U.S. assistance.

“A lot of these countries know how to fly the Scan Eagles (a small drone) and other things that they buy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use them” to process information and turn that information into useable intelligence, Atkins told a standing room only audience during the 2015 Special Operations Forces Industry Conference sponsored by TAMPA-headquartered SOCOM and the National Defense Industrial Association. The conference ended today (May 21).

May 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm Leave a comment

UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: FAA Picks Six Test Sites to Integrate Drones into U.S. Airspace

A Good Start

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which oversees private and commercial aircraft operations, has chosen six sites to test the best ways for introducing unmanned aircraft into the crowded National Airspace.

27130-selected-uas-test-site-operators-large

The sites are located in six states: Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Virginia and Texas. The entities – three universities, an aiport and two state governments were all picked for their climate, research facilities and air traffic conditions. “In totality, these six test applications achieve cross-country geographic and climatic diversity and help the FAA meet its UAS research needs,” the FAA said.

Congress has ordered the FAA to develop a program for the safe introduction of commercial unmanned aircraft, usually known as unmanned aircraft systems or UAS – although most people call them drones – into the already crowded National Airspace System by 2015.

Currently only government, industrial and academic UAV operators are allowed to fly them in highly restricted air zones — mostly for research — once they have received a certificate of authorization (COA). The COAs limit when and where they can fly their drones. Hobbyists may fly a small UAS no higher than 300 feet above ground and must always maintain visual contact with the drone. No commercial drone activity is allowed at this time although proponents say they would be useful for monitoring traffic during a mass evacuation, crops and livestock, wild animal migration, forest fires, oil and gas pipelines, Arctic sea ice and emergency response operations.

As we noted in November, the FAA has issued its initial plans, or roadmap, for integrating UAS into U.S. skies, but the process is expected to take 15 years.

UAS supporters worry that the outrage raised by U.S. drone strikes against militants and terrorists in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere — that have led to civilian casualties — has made the American public leery of drones flying overhead. There is also concern about privacy and other civil rights being violated by a camera-equipped UAS flown by law enforcement or intelligence agencies. That worry is largely driven by last summer’s revelations of covert cell phone and email meta data gathering by the National Security Agency.

So the Aerospace States Association, the American Civil Liberties Association and other groups have developed suggested guidelines for state laws concerning drones that will protect civil liberties without pulling the plug on an industry with the potential  to create thousands of jobs and add billions of dollars to the national economy.

AUVSI Unmanned Vehicles 2013 conference. (4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

AUVSI Unmanned Vehicles 2013 conference.
(4GWAR photo by John M. Doyle)

And the companies that provide services ranging from translators to aircraft for humanitarian aid and relief  organizations are exploring how UAS might help them with security and finding refugees or survivors of natural and man-made disasters in undeveloped countries, according to the programs and operations director of the International Stability Operations Association.

December 30, 2013 at 10:41 pm Leave a comment

TECHNOLOGY: Intel That Leaders Can Act On

Avoiding Nasty Surprises

The uproar over the National Security Agency’s wide-ranging cell phone and Internet surveillance revived a national debate about the necessity of intelligence gathering and what the federal government does with what it learns.

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by William Belcher)

Cyber operations at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas (U.S. Air Force photo by
William Belcher)

But the accumulation of “Big Data” – millions and millions of phone calls, text messages and emails — whether by government agencies or private corporations, underscores the urgency of acquiring intelligence that can be acted upon in real time. This is especially true in an era when the United States is confronted by near peer competitors like China and Russia, hostile nation states such as North Korea and Iran and non-state, violent extremist networks like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Actionable intelligence is simply that: information gleaned from a range of sources that enables decision makers – from political leaders to field commanders – to take appropriate and timely action when faced with a security threat like an imminent terrorist attack or the shipment of weapons of mass destruction.

 The bottom line: preventing nasty surprises.

To read more of this story, go to the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA) website or click here.

June 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment


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