Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Afghan Drug Clan Dupes US Special Operations Forces

American special forces in Afghanistan have been used by a drug clan in a mission to execute a heroin underworld rival, it has been claimed.

American special forces in Afghanistan have been used by a drug clan in a mission to execute a heroin underworld rival, claims a German magazine.

Source: Telegraph


US, Japanese Navy in Place to Intercept North Korean Rocket

The US and Japan yesterday deployed anti-missile batteries on land and sea to shoot down possible debris from an intercontinental ballistic missile North Korea is expected to test in the next few days, reports the Guardian.


Autonomous Military Robots by 2020

The Defense Department is financing studies of autonomous, or self-governing, armed robots that could find and destroy targets on their own. Onboard computer programs, not flesh-and-blood people, would decide whether to fire their weapons, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"The trend is clear: Warfare will continue and autonomous robots will ultimately be deployed in its conduct," Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, wrote in a study commissioned by the Army


Army Soldiers Get Enhanced NVGs

Soldiers now have a leap-ahead new tool that will enhance their ability to see in total darkness: the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggle.

The ENVG is being fielded by Program Executive Office Soldier, the Army acquisition agency that develops, acquires, and fields what Soldiers wear and carry. About 300 sets of the new night-vision goggles were fielded to the 10th Mountain Division in February, the first unit other than Special Forces to use the goggles.

The ENVG is a helmet-mounted passive image intensification and thermal device that incorporates both I2 and long-wave infrared sensors into a single integrated system. It weighs two pounds, including the battery pack which uses four AA batteries, the helmet mount, and wiring harness.

"You can really tell where a person is, where a vehicle is, a lot more than with just regular night vision," said Pvt. Andrew Busch of the 10th Mountain Division, whose Soldiers were the first to receive the ENVG. "When I first put mine on, it was clear right away. I didn't have to adjust it at all."

"Our mission at PEO Soldier is to constantly strive to improve upon current capabilities in order to save and improve the quality of Soldiers' lives, while we simultaneously enhance their ability to accomplish their missions," said Brig. Gen. Peter N. Fuller, the program executive officer for soldier equipment. "When it comes to sensor and laser systems, this system achieves those ends."

In 2000, the U.S. Army began development of a fused imaging system. Feasibility studies resulted in a concept to combine a thermal camera with enhanced image intensification into an integrated helmet-borne system, something that would allow Soldiers literally to see through total darkness while still enabling them to see details and to use weapon-mounted aiming lasers.

Though the AN/PVS-14 Monocular Night Vision Device, the predecessor to the ENVG, has been very popular with Soldiers for its smaller size and reduced weight, the Army wanted to augment the AN/PVS-14's capabilities.

"The AN/PVS-14 does a fine job in low light conditions." said Sgt. Maj. Thomas W. Coleman, PEO-Soldier's senior enlisted adviser. "By incorporating a thermal camera, the ENVG increases individual Soldier mobility and situational awareness, day or night, in all weather and degraded battlefield conditions."

The ENVG also facilitates faster threat recognition and thereby reduces the possibility of collateral damage and fratricide, PEO-Soldier officials said.

Several engineering enhancements to the ENVG improved its fit and function - for example, moving the helmet mount's center of gravity closer to the face to increase comfort as well as stability. In addition, the system is now more compact and easier to stow when it is not in use, which enhances Soldiers' maneuverability. Another benefit of the ENVG is its compatibility with aiming lasers currently in use, allowing for a fully integrated system of thermal, laser, and image intensification.

Soldiers' feedback on the ENVG has been overwhelmingly positive. Cpl. Anthony Peden, noting the U.S. Army's longstanding advantage in fighting at night, said, "Now, with the infrared technology and the night-vision capability all wrapped into one, we're 20 steps ahead."

"I think the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle is an outstanding piece of equipment," said Lt. Col. Robert Freyland of the 10th Mountain. "It looks like something out of the movie 'Predator.' "

A digital update for the ENVG is currently in development to take advantage of image processing techniques that can improve image clarity and situational awareness for the Soldier. With a digital ENVG system, Soldiers on the battlefield of the future could import and export digital files, PEO-Soldier officials said.


Space: A 'Contested Environment' for the Air Force

A new special area of emphasis, or SAE, titled "Space as a Contested Environment," was introduced by U.S. military officials at Colorado Springs March 30 at the 25th National Space Symposium.

SAEs are established by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff  to address topics of great importance to the joint military community.

Adm. Mike Mullen established this SAE to highlight the space domain's emergence as an environment where U.S. operations and superiority maybe challenged.

"America's way of life is dependent on space," said Col. Sean D. McClung, the director of Air University's National Space Studies Center, or NSSC. "Many decades ago space was thought of as a sanctuary.  We are entering into a new era where space is a contested environment."

The forum introduced the SAE which is expected to impact joint professional military education curricula and teachings at military education institutions across the entire Department of Defense.

"We have to think about what we would do if our systems in space were attacked -- how we determine attribution for the attack, and respond in appropriate manner," Colonel McClung said. "We also must consider how to create a strategic environment that makes attacks and their consequences unacceptable -- a new thinking on deterrence."

Space assets are vulnerable to a variety of threats beyond attacks by weaponry: from electronic jamming and debris fields from collisions between other satellites to interruptions of ground sites and launch infrastructure. The SAE is intended to address those threats to space operations as well.

"President Obama stated that his administration will seek a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites," Colonel McClung said. "As a military we have to consider what happens in the worst case scenario if someone does not respect that ban; the SAE by the chairman will allow us to explore all of these issues in greater depth."

The scope of the SAE reaches beyond the Department of Defense, seeking to catalyze thought on the effect of space operations on the interdependent trio of civil, commercial and military end users.

"Not only the military needs to understand the implications of space as a contested environment, but civil and commercial organizations as well need to understand the impact on their ability to do business as usual," Colonel McClung said. "But, above all other communities, the military needs to understand implications of space as a contested environment and how to protect America's interests."

The nominal level of attention by the U.S. military to the nation's dependencies upon and vulnerability of space capabilities drew congressional attention in 2006. This led to self-examination of space education by Air University officials in 2007, which noted internal deficiencies requiring revisions of space curricula in Air Force professional military education.

Similar deficiencies were found in space education across the Department of Defense by an Air War College study. This disturbing trend culminated with NSSC officials initiating the effort to have the JCS chairman establish an SAE on space in 2008.

Experts in Air University's NSSC and AWC, in concert with the Air Force Space Command chair to AU, and specialists in the National Security Space Institute worked for the past year with military educators and the Joint Staff at the Pentagon to introduce a space-focused SAE into military education programs, eventually leading to the issuance of "Space as a Contested Environment."

The forum was attended by individuals across the space spectrum from members of the DOD and space industry to educators and government officials.

This event leads into an Air Force Research Institute Symposium on "Space as a Contested Environment," at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., in November.

Ben Sakrissen


TacSat-3 to Launch May 5

Lift off for Tactical Satellite-3 has been scheduled for May 5, 2009, from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Wallops Island Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.

The program recently encountered challenges with some of the spacecraft's components, but the required repairs have been made and the system has been given the green light for its year-long experimental mission.

"Our program team never gave up, and establishment of the launch date serves as a testimony to their dedication, determination and duty to making TacSat-3's mission a success," said Dr. Thomas Cooley, TacSat-3 program manager. "Obviously, the project has much to do in these next few weeks leading up to lift off, but we now have a firm end date to get on orbit and begin the fun experiment phase."

Led by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate here, the less than 880-pound satellite, originated in 2004 to address military needs for responsible, flexible, and affordable spacecraft operating in the cosmos, consists of three innovative experiments: the Raytheon Company-built Advanced Responsive Tactically Effective Military Imaging Spectrometer hyperspectral imager, the Office of Naval Research's Satellite Communications Package, and the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Avionics Experiment.

The trio of trials will provide real-time imagery (within 10 minutes of collection); sea-based information transmitted from ocean buoys; and plug-and-play avionics to advance the technology of rapid spacecraft integration and help enable the responsive space vision.

Program participants include the AFRL's Sensors Directorate, Dept. of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space office, the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Development and Test Wing, Army Space and Missile Defense Command, and the Office of Naval Research.

Michael Kleiman


820th SFG activates new combat operations squadron

After more than a year of planning, a new squadron was activated during a ceremony held at Moody AFB (Georgia) March 25 to further support the unit capabilities of the 820th Security Forces Group.

After a new guidon was unveiled, the 820th Combat Operations Squadron became a fully functional unit in the 820th SFG.

"The mission of the 820th COS is to provide combat support for the first-in mission of the 820th SFG," said Col. Donald Derry, 820th SFG commander. "The creation of this squadron meets the operational mandate handed down by U.S. Central Command and the U.S. Northern Command.

"It also gives the 820th SFG the administrative structure necessary to meet continuing war on terrorism responsibilities and the on-going high operations tempo at home station and overseas," he added.

Beginning in May, Lt. Col. John Daberkow, Pentagon Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Architectures and Systems Branch chief, will assume command of the 820th COS.

"The role and growth of the 93rd Air Ground Operations Wing and the 820th SFG mindset is essential," said Lt. Col. Daberkow. "I am looking forward to joining this team so I can continue to see evidence of its positive impact."

The new squadron will also help support the existing squadrons under the 820th SFG's command.

"It will provide the oversight required to give home-based support for the other squadrons in the 820th SFG," said Colonel Derry. "The squadron's structure allows for a singularly focused support point for the rotating deployment of the three other squadrons."

Except for the incoming commander, all personnel assigned to the 820th COS come from within the current group staff.

"I am honored to be moving here and carrying on the 820th SFG mission," said Lt. Col. Daberkow. "I anticipate leading this new squadron forward."

Brigitte Brantley

C-17 Formation Flight Tests Global Deployment Strategy

The Global Reach Combined Test Force concluded a colossal mission of performing a formation test with six C-17 Globemaster IIIs March 14 and 17 at Edwards AFB (California).

As the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift fleet, the C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in deployed environments.

The aircraft is equipped with a formation flight system that enables the pilot to monitor and fly the aircraft in formation with other C-17s.

"The C-17 has a basic mission requirement to be able to fly large-scale formation, both in the clear and through the clouds," said Lt. Col. James Hanley, 418th Flight Test Squadron commander. "The purpose is to be able to deliver a sizeable Army force of both personnel and their equipment into a hostile environment very rapidly."

Initially, the formation flight system was tested at Edwards in the summer of 2008, afterward it was tested at Pope Air Force Base, N.C., in four-ship formation.

"While we were there, we discovered several system deficiencies that caused us not to recommend the system for the next phase of operational testing," Colonel Hanley said.

One of these deficiencies included electronic interference on the formation flight system's ability to "see" other aircraft.

"We didn't know the source," the colonel said. "Both the Systems Group, Program Office and Boeing engineers have been analyzing the test for the last six months. They needed some more data on what was causing these issues. They asked the Global Reach CTF to perform six-ship testing to gather data and hopefully, resolve these issues. The thought-process was the more aircraft there are in the formation, the more demand you are putting on the system and the more chances you will be able to see these deficiencies. "

Through the formation testing, the Global Reach CTF was trying to figure out the root cause of the system deficiencies.

"For a test of this scale, there is a lot of planning involved," said Colonel Hanley. "The specific formation geometries for the test and what airplane needs to be in what position require a very detailed plan in both how we are going to taxi and take off with six C-17s."

The test team performed a planning process, including forming a test and safety plan and programmatic scheduling for the aircraft.

"Imagine driving a big rig truck that is 10 miles long; you have to think about what you are going to do before you do it," said Maj. Mark Jones Jr., 418th FLTS experimental test pilot. "When we were performing the test, we had 10 miles long formation. It takes a lot of forethought and planning to figure out how we are going to fly and how we are going to move the airplanes around in different formation geometries."

Part of the testing also included simulating airdrops and finding out what happens when the aircraft formation goes through a cloud.

"There were also a couple of challenges in dealing with six C-17s," Major Jones said. "It is not like the Thunderbirds where they take off right next to each other. When C-17 aircraft take off, they start to get stretched out. We also have to plan our route of flight, speed and climb schedule to make it easy for the last aircraft to catch up with the formation."

During testing, the pilots used the formation flight system to communicate with each other using their Global Positioning System and Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems. The pilots monitored each aircraft system to ensure they were working correctly.

"The lead pilot was responsible for sending information electronically, through the system, to other C-17s so that the whole formation knows what's going on," Major Jones said. "Our mission was to collect data. Test engineers wanted to see when the system malfunctioned. They wanted to find out when other aircraft systems interfered with the operation of the formation flight system."

According to Major Jones, the system will provide a substantial increase in capability once it becomes operational.

"The formation flight system is head and shoulders above the C-17's legacy formation system, which is called Station Keeping Equipment," the major said. "If we get it up and running, it is going to streamline how we do formation and increase our capabilities. It will make flying in formation easier for the pilots, thereby increasing airdrops and supplies to warfighters."

Colonel Hanley said various organizations were critical in completing the C-17 formation flight system testing. The 412th Operations Support Squadron provided the ramp space for the six aircraft as well as coordinated the taxi plan. The testers used the temporary runway to prevent clogging the main taxi ways.

The 412th Maintenance Group provided maintenance support, while the 412th Test Management Group and 412th Operations Group gave approval on the test and safety plans. In addition, Air Mobility Command loaned four aircraft and crew as well as maintenance support personnel for the test.

"Without great teamwork, we couldn't have done it," Colonel Hanley said. "This is overall a phenomenal effort from the whole team. We were able to fly all these aircraft on time and get the data we needed in two missions. The professionalism of the aircrew is remarkable. It was an overall incredible effort, and I was proud to be part of it."

Julio Delos Reyes


Congressmen Demand DoD Outsourcing Moratorium

Halt the Outsourcing, For Now: That's the sentiment in March 26 letters sent to heads of DOD and OMB by two key lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee, chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and readiness panel chairman Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex.). The two veteran Congressmen point out that the A-76 process, originally designed to find the "most competitive and efficient source" for handling commercial services, has become "almost a mandate" to push "more and more work into the private sector, even work that is closely associated with inherently governmental functions" to meet "arbitrary competition goals."

They point to a March 4 memo by President Obama in which he states the lines between activities should not be outsourced and those that may "has been blurred and inadequately defined. … Agencies must operate under clear rules prescribing when outsourcing is and is not appropriate." The A-76 process has generated problems throughout DOD, raising union hackles in many cases and prompting the DOD Inspector General to note that Air Force officials have felt pressure to conduct A-76 studies to meet tighter budgets.

Skelton and Ortiz ask Defense Secretary Robert Gates to "immediately halt any pending A-76 studies as well as the initiation or announcement of any A-76 study" to provide the Administration and Congress time to review DOD's program and determine "the best course forward." They ask OMB Director Peter Orszag to "undertake a comprehensive review" of DOD's A-76 program. (Letter to Gates; letter to Orszag)

Source: AFA


The United States, Germany and Beyond

Three major meetings will take place in Europe over the next nine days: a meeting of the G-20, a NATO summit and a meeting of the European Union with U.S. President Barack Obama.

The week will define the relationship between the United States and Europe and reveal some intra-European relationships. If not a defining moment, the week will certainly be a critical moment in dealing with economic, political and military questions.

To be more precise, the meeting will be about U.S.-German relations. Not only is Germany the engine of continental Europe, its policies diverge the most sharply from those of the United States. In some ways, U.S.-German relations have been the core of the U.S.-European relationship, so this marathon of summits will focus on the United States and Germany, writes Stratfor's George Friedman.



Monday, March 30, 2009

Navy's Only Combined Submarine Squadron Splits to Enhance Warfighting Readiness

Submarine Squadron 16/20 held a ceremony to split the two commands at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., March 27.

Squadron 16 and 20 combined in October 2005 after four ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) shifted to the West Coast and prior to the arrival of the two guided-missile submarines (SSGN) in Kings Bay. Until the command split, Squadron 16/20 was responsible for six SSBNs and two SSGNs.

Capt. Kevin Brenton relieved Capt. Dan Mack as commodore of Submarine Squadron 20. Mack remains commodore of Submarine Squadron 16.

"As commodore of both squadrons for twenty-one months, I am proud to have had the privilege of serving with the outstanding combined staff and the dedicated submarine crews who have completed thirty-two deployments in support of these varied missions since June 2007," Mack said.

Rear Adm. Timothy Giardina, commander of Group Trident, served as the principal speaker. Giardina recognized the need to split the commands as the first step in formally restoring the East Coast Trident community to full strength.

"The fact that we're splitting out the responsibilities of the two Kings Bay submarine squadrons not only reflects on the importance of the Trident mission but also the recognition by our Navy and the submarine force that the combined staff of Squadron 16 and 20 staff has been going double duty for about 18 months," said Giardina.

"Separating the two squadrons recognizes the unique and important differences between the SSGN and SSBN missions and will provide the necessary oversight and training specific to the each mission area," Brenton said. "Splitting Squadrons 16 and 20 and fully re-constituting two independent submarine squadrons is the next step in the progression of adding the SSGN mission to Kings Bay, Georgia."

Each squadron will have clear focal points while also supporting the other.

"Squadron 20 will focus on maintaining excellence in execution of the strategic deterrent mission, the jewel of our national security," said Mack.

"Squadron 16 will focus on the emerging operational SSGN multi-mission capability and build on the excellence already established in strike warfare and special operations forces delivery and support, among many other missions while supporting SSBNs during and after overhaul periods."

Giardina praised the combined Squadron 16/20 staff for their accomplishments and performance.

"I am honored to maintain command of Submarine Squadron 16, and to lead and mentor the great warriors who serve as submariners on the SSGNs and SSBNs," said Mack.

Brenton remarked about commanding Submarine Squadron 20 and the opportunity to "lead some of our Navy's best and brightest Sailors in support of our strategic deterrence mission. The oversight and training of our Trident SSBN crews is vital to the security of our nation. It requires attention to detail and the establishment and adherence to high standards."

"I look forward to working with Team Trident here in Kings Bay to ensure our continued excellence and performance," Brenton said.



US-Korean Maritime Operations Plan Signed

In a fitting end to a military exercise in defending the Republic of Korea (ROK) against external aggression, a new maritime operational plan was signed March 20 shortly after allied "victory" was declared from the simulated conflict.

The commanders of both the U.S. and Korean naval forces during the simulation -- U.S. Navy Vice Adm. John M. Bird and the deputy commander, ROK Vice Adm. Park Jung-hwa -- signed the new war plan into effect during a reception aboard USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), which served as the hub for maritime command and control during the annual exercise Key Resolve 2009.

The revised operational plan, commonly called OPLAN in military circles, was the result of nearly 18 months of close interaction between the two countries' navies.

"The close cooperation between the 7th Fleet and ROK Fleet is represented in the detailed planning and coordination that is described in this comprehensive plan of action," said ROK Capt. Park Sung Bae, who co-led the operational planning team with his U.S. counterpart, Marine Corps Col. Philip Lark.

"This is another example of the close relationship and teamwork between Koreans and Americans," added Lark, who serves as 7th Fleet's head planner and fleet marine officer.

According to Lark, the process began after U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and ROK Minister of National Defense Kim Jang Soo signed an agreement that would transfer to Korea the lead for operational control of its forces by 2012. Under the current arrangement, the two nations' military forces are separately commanded in peace time, but if a conflict broke out, the combined forces commander – a general in the U.S. Army – would take full operational control of all forces.

Vice Adm. John M. Bird, who also commands the U.S. 7th Fleet, would serve as the combined naval component commander, giving him operational control all the U.S. and Korean Navy forces in the conflict. The revised OPLAN shifts many maritime mission areas under the direct control of Park, his Korean counterpart and deputy, who commands the Republic of Korea Fleet during peacetime.

By 2012 their roles will have shifted, with the Korean fleet commander leading the maritime fight with the U.S. 7th Fleet in a supporting role.

Regardless of the command and control arrangement, Bird stressed, the two countries' efforts are a powerful deterrent to aggression of any potential enemy.

"Even though our operational control roles may reverse, our commitment to working together to defend Korea has not changed one bit," Bird said.

Park agreed and added that even though the operational plan details how to deal with a conflict, the overall goal is to avoid one.

"I am pleased to formalize this plan with our U.S. counterparts," said Park. "Our signatures here serve as a reminder to all that the U.S. and the Republic of Korea stand ready to fight side by side to defend this free nation."

Matthew Schwartz (NNS)


Special Ops Good Option for Small European Allies

Gen. Roger Brady, head of US Air Forces in Europe, believes Europe could use irregular forces "very effectively." Brady explained to the Defense Writers Group in Washington March 26 that allies currently without modern air forces, particularly smaller states, could usher in irregular warfare capabilities "much quicker than [adding] fourth or fifth generation aircraft." However, when asked if he'd be willing to sacrifice USAFE conventional capability to add irregular forces, Brady drew the line, saying, "I think I've given [blood] at the office." (See "Stop Cutting USAFE")

Source: AFA


No-Fly Plan for Darfur "Not Operationally Developed"

The precarious humanitarian situation in the Darfur region has elicited harsh criticism from Obama Administration officials and raised the specter of potential creation of a new multi-lateral "no fly zone."

However, according to Gen. Roger Brady, head of US Air Forces in Europe with administrative control of 17th Air Force (Air Forces Africa), a component of the new US Africa Command, planning for such a contingency has not left the gate yet. "I don't think that idea is probably well enough developed for us to start counting heads as to who might or who might not [participate]," he told the Defense Writers Group in Washington March 26.

Brady said the operation would carry inherent challenges due in no small part to the massive distances involved in the region. "That is an idea that has been expressed, [but] I don't think it's an idea that has been operationally developed at this point," he said. USAFE would be key in any such plan since AFRICOM has no permanent assigned forces.

President Obama's naming of retired USAF Maj. Gen. Jonathan Gration as the special envoy to Sudan was spot on, according to Brady, who said, "He's kind of a natural guy to put in a place like that; … he's a guy that knows a lot about Africa."

Source: AFA


Gates Wants Heavier Sanctions on Iran

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Sunday that economic sanctions would be more effective than diplomatic overtures in bringing Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program, reports Reuters."Perhaps if there is enough economic pressure placed on Iran, diplomacy can provide them an open door through which they can walk if they choose to change their policies," Gates said on Fox News Sunday."I think the two go hand in hand, but I think what gets them to the table is economic sanctions," he said, commenting on diplomatic efforts to neutralize the nuclear plans of Iran and North Korean.

Source: Reuters

# End

Designated Pentagon Weapons Czar Pressed on KC-X Tanker

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) elicited a promise from Pentagon weapons buyer nominee Ashton Carter that he would "serve up the best acquisition strategy as honestly as I possibly can" if he gets the job and thus must supervise the re-bid for the KC-X tanker program. During the Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing March 26, Sessions asked whether Carter would include "best value" in his consideration of the Boeing and Northrop Grumman tankers and not, as he had heard, base the decision "purely on price." Carter replied: I would use exactly the traditional process of best value in this case and attach the weights to the various parameters that go into best value, of which price is one—and call it like I see it."

Source: AFA


Senators Support 2018 Strategic Bomber

A bipartisan group of six Senators on March 26 sent a letter to President Obama urging him to preserve the next generation bomber (NGB) in the Fiscal 2010 defense budget. Despite protests to the contrary, there is strong sentiment that the NGB is on the Administration hit list among weapons cuts sure to come in the new budget. The Senators write that terminating the NGB "would do tremendous damage to our nation's future ability to project power abroad." They reminded the President that senior Administration officials have agreed the new bomber is "absolutely critical." The Senators are: John Cornyn (R-Tex.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), John Thune (R-S.D.), and David Vitter (R-La.)

Source: AFA


Air Guard Preserving Options for 4th-Generation Aircraft Buy

The Air National Guard has a dilemma: Under current plans, the Air Force's purchase of fifth-generation aircraft to recapitalize the fighter force will not meet Air Guard needs since at least 80 percent of its F-16s will reach the end of their service lives in eight years. That means the nation has a serious problem, because the Air Guard carries the bulk of the homeland air sovereignty mission. In the view of Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), although the Air Force has said homeland defense is its most important mission, "it hasn't done much to demonstrate that it realizes it's an important mission."

Bond maintains that the Air Guard must have "an interim bridge" because it "cannot rely on the F-35 program" to provide enough aircraft "in a timely manner." Responding to Bond during a Senate Appropriations defense panel hearing March 25, Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt, newly installed ANG director, asserted that the Air Guard has been working with Air Combat Command and has made "progress" toward earlier fielding of the F-35 within the Air Guard.

Wyatt said that he has "not ruled out" buy of either fourth- or 4.5-generation modernized legacy fighters, recognizing that would not be a Guard decision alone. However, Wyatt maintained, "We are preserving our options to include a fourth-generation buy." (Wyatt written testimony)

Source: AFA


Former Soviet Republics Key to US Afghanistan Logistics

The road passes a shimmering green mountain pasture, then dips steeply to a new US-built bridge. Across the languid Panj river is Afghanistan and the dusty northern town of Kunduz. On this side is Tajikistan, Afghanistan's impoverished Central Asian neighbour.

It is here, at what used to be the far boundary of the Soviet empire, that the US and Nato are planning a new operation. Soon, Nato trucks loaded with non-military supplies will start rolling into Afghanistan along this northern route, avoiding Pakistan's perilous tribal areas and the ambush-prone Khyber Pass.

This northern corridor is essential if Barack Obama's Afghan-Pakistan strategy is to work. With convoys supplying US and Nato forces regularly attacked by the Taliban on the Pakistan route, the US is again courting the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

Source: Guardian


US army fights to separate friends from foe in Afghanistan

General David McKiernan, commander of the 73,000 international troops in Afghanistan, told the Observer that the new troops would "allow a persistent presence that we have not had before to protect the populace".

This is the new mantra of the coalition forces in Afghanistan. "Our aim is to separate the people from the enemy," said Colonel David Haight, who leads Taskforce Spartan. The tactic is known as the Petraeus doctrine, after US general David Petraeus who pioneered it in Iraq and who now commands all US troops both there and in Afghanistan.

It is based on the idea that if local people could be made secure and insurgents kept away from them, progress in reconstruction and economic development would win and retain their loyalty, allowing the country to be stabilised and the international coalition to withdraw. "I can become someone's worst enemy in a second, but that is a short-term solution," said Haight. "My aim here is governance, security and sustainability."


No Afghan Quagmire, Obama Promises

Invoking what he described as a lesson of Vietnam, President Obama said Sunday that his commitment to step up military operations in Afghanistan was not open-ended, and that success would require vigorous diplomatic and development efforts there and in neighboring Pakistan.

Obama framed the escalation of military activity in Afghanistan and aid for Pakistan that he announced Friday as part of an effort to regain focus on defeating or neutralizing Al Qaeda, which was dislodged from enclaves in Afghanistan after the U.S.-led invasion in late 2001.

Source: LA Times


Trainers 'critical' to Obama's new Afghan-Pakistan plan, Mullen says

The pending deployment of thousands of U.S. military trainers to Afghanistan to instruct Afghan soldiers and police is a key component of President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, the U.S. military's top uniformed officer said on 27 March in Washington.

Earlier today, Obama unveiled the new Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy at a White House news conference. The president's strategy includes the deployment of 4,000 extra U.S. troops to train Afghan soldiers and police.

"Critical to this strategy is really the buildup of the Afghan security forces -- the rapid increase in both the Army and police," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters during an afternoon news conference held in his "E" Ring Pentagon office.

"And, those 4,000 trainers are absolutely at the heart of being able to do that as rapidly as possible," Mullen said.

U.S. officials want to boost the Afghan army from 82,000 soldiers to 134,000 and to increase police ranks from about 80,000 to 82,000 by 2011.

Besides the trainers, Mullen said, the president had previously approved deploying 17,000 additional servicemembers to Afghanistan. Some of those troops will be posted in the southern portion of the country to battle resurgent Taliban insurgents.

The extra forces earmarked for Afghanistan will meet this year's troop requests of Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, Mullen said. The added forces will bump the total U.S. military strength there to more than 62,000.

Mullen said he is hopeful that America's NATO allies could contribute more resources, military or civilian, to the Afghan campaign.

Al-Qaida continues to hide out in Pakistan's northwestern regions adjacent to its border with Afghanistan, but Mullen said he's buoyed by improving relations between the U.S. military and the Pakistani army. The Pakistani frontier troops, he noted, should be praised for their increased actions against al-Qaida terrorists.

The new strategy also calls for a "civilian surge," Mullen said, that will involve specialists in economics, reconstruction, rule of law, and governance from across the U.S. government, including allies and nongovernmental agencies.

"It won't make any difference how many troops we send if we don't get the civilian piece right," Mullen said. "And, it's not just civilians from the United States, it's civilians, as well, from our NATO partners and other countries who are participating."

Senior U.S. military and civilian leaders in Afghanistan, Mullen said, will be assessing the impact of the new strategy later this year.

Mullen said "a great deal" of his and other senior Pentagon military and civilian leaders' thinking is reflected in Obama's new Afghan-Pakistan strategy.

"I think it was absolutely vital to include an emphasis on the region, and in particular [to] include an emphasis on Pakistan," Mullen said.

Obama's new Afghan-Pakistan strategy is the product of months of interagency brainstorming between senior national security and diplomatic officials at the White House, State Department, Pentagon and other U.S. government agencies. The United States also reached out to obtain input from NATO and other allies.

At his White House news conference, Obama told reporters it is imperative that the United States and its allies defeat al-Qaida terrorists lodged in parts of Afghanistan and western Pakistan and bring security and stability to both embattled countries.

Meanwhile, Taliban Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan continue attacks on U.S., coalition and Afghan troops and innocent civilians.

"So, I want the American people to understand that we have a clear and focused goal: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future," Obama said at the news conference.

"That's the goal that must be achieved. That is a cause that could not be more just," the president said.

Back at the Pentagon news conference, Mullen noted that pressuring al-Qaida and the Taliban, and assisting Afghans to realize a better future, are key to the success of the counter-insurgency campaign there.

"We've got to have a year, this year, I believe, that starts to stem that violence" in Afghanistan, Mullen said, while focusing on earning the support of the individuals that are the "center of gravity" of the effort.

"And, that's the Afghan people," he said.

Gary Gilmore (AFPS)


Plan to Boost Afghan Stability, Confront Taliban and Al-Qaida

President Obama's new strategy for the Afghanistan war includes 4,000 more troops and assistance to Pakistan in its fight against militants. Special envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke, and Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus explain the plan in this PBS interview (transcript).


First Army Units Redeploy from Iraq to Afghanistan

The 100th Brigade Support Battalion here was repositioned to southern Afghanistan on March 28, where they will provide sustainment and distribution support to Coalition forces.

The 100th BSB, an active component unit from Fort Sill, Okla., has the distinction of being among the first Army units to deploy to Afghanistan from Iraq. The move comes as a result of the increased capabilities of Iraqi Security Forces.

According to the Army's 44th Military History Detachment, this is also the first time a logistics unit has deployed from one combat theater to another unattached to a larger combined arms formation.

Lt. Col. Brent D. Bush, battalion commander of the 100th BSB, said he is excited about his unit's move to Afghanistan and appreciates the opportunity to command it.

"Historically, this is a big deal for this organization," said Bush who also noted that its current deployment to Iraq was the first ever for the 100th BSB.

"It's a new chapter and a fast moving chapter for this battalion," Bush said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Bryant D. Williams, the senior noncommissioned officer of the 100th BSB, said he is also excited for the move to Afghanistan.

"It's like anything - excited because we really get to work, the Soldiers really get to see what they can do," Williams said. "And ultimately it makes the tour go by faster."

Williams said the unit has kept busy by training for the new mission - training which included physical conditioning to prepare Soldiers for the environmental changes they will face in Afghanistan.

"Altitude is going to place some challenges on our Soldiers," Williams said.

Beginning in December 2008, the unit provided logistical support to Coalition forces in western and central Iraq as part of the 3d Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).

The unit also worked closely with Iraqi Security Forces logistical units to increase their capabilities.

According to current Department of Defense policy, the length of the 100th BSB's 12-month deployment will not be affected by move; the unit is still expected to redeploy to the U.S. as scheduled next winter.

Alex Snyder


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Russia, China, and the United States in Central Asia

Dr. Elizabeth Wishnick, a Research Associate at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University, has written an interesting new monograph called Russia, China, and the United States in Central Asia: Prospects for Great Power Competition and Cooperation in the Shadow of the Georgian Crisis.

Despite fissures within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and the competitive tendencies within the Sino-Russian partnership, Dr. Wishnick contends that the United States will not have an easy time achieving its aims in Central Asia. She argues that the rhetoric about a new Cold War in the aftermath of the Georgian crisis obscures the common interests the great powers share in addressing transnational problems in Central Asia.

Download the monograph (449 KB), published by the US Army's Strategic Studies Institute, by clicking the link above.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Airmen demonstrate unmanned aircraft not merely 'drones'

The door to the 62nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron (Kandahar Air Base, Afghanistan) features a drawing of an MQ-1 Predator armed with Hellfire missiles underscored with the words "We're not drones - we fire back."

Often referred to by reporters as "drones," unmanned aircraft like the MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk are remotely-flown weapons systems flown both locally and stateside from ground stations using satellite uplinks. They're also far more complex than the U.S. military's relatively more simplified radio-controlled drone aircraft used for aerial target practice, according to unmanned aircraft system professionals.

For the Airmen flying and maintaining the lethal Predator and its big brother, the MQ-9 Reaper, from Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, and from Creech Air Force Base, Nev., the message is demonstrated to their adversaries on a regular basis.

"(Both the MQ-1 and MQ-9 are weapons-carrying aircraft,) and both have a hunter-killer role in addition to their intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities," said Lt. Col. Scott Miller, the 62nd ERS commander, who is deployed from the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech AFB.

Performing dual-missions of close-air support and ISR taskings, the Predator can stay airborne for more than 12 hours at 50,000 feet and the Reaper can stay up for a longer period of time at even higher altitudes, according to squadron officials. Boasting a full-motion video camera with various modes that can detect enemy movements, the Predator and Reaper also carry the Hellfire missile. In addition to carrying a larger payload of Hellfires, the UAs bring to the fight a set of two 500 lbs. laser-guided bombs that allow operators to not only observe and detect hostile forces, but also eliminate them if called upon to do so.

"Both aircraft can initiate and complete the 'killchain'," Colonel Miller said. "With their ability to loiter for long periods of time over a target, eliminate it, stay on station and then provide the (bomb damage assessment,) they provide continuity to a mission and prove to be invaluable assets."

The aircraft are flown jointly by the 62nd ERS crews stationed here with the 451st Air Expeditionary Group and by crews back at Creech using satellite uplinks that transfer control from the local pilots who taxi, launch, land and recover the aircraft (all from trailers adjacent to the flightline) and the Creech aviators flying inside of mission control elements performing missions across Afghanistan. British Royal Air Force counterparts also fly the Reaper.

General Atomics contractors perform maintenance on the Reaper while responsibility for Predator maintenance is undertaken by 62nd ERS Airmen.

"As this aircraft is like 90 percent avionics, it's a pretty unique experience to work on it," said Senior Airman Doug Cox, a 62nd ERS MQ-1 avionics specialist from Creech AFB. "We're asked to do a lot more than our traditional specialties and most of us are trained up on crew chief duties such as performing 60-hour inspections, changing spark plugs, engine oil and things like that."

First Lt. Andrew Dowd, also deployed from Creech AFB as the unit's maintenance officer, agreed.

"This aircraft does not have hydraulic fluid and operates using electro-servos," he said, also noting the aircraft recently reached a 500,000 flight hour milestone. "It's a very unique platform, but of course, when it's all said and done, it's the $1.2 million camera that runs the show."

After the aircraft are airborne and are handed off by the Kandahar crew, Creech aviators perform the majority of traditional mission taskings. However, the 62nd ERS Airmen increasingly are taking responsibility for executing missions within the local area to aid and protect coalition forces stationed around Kandahar who are fighting the enemy. Sometimes weapons are dropped, demonstrating the lethality and uniqueness of the 62nd ERS' mission and aircraft to friends and foes alike.

Notably, some missions are often generated to fly only within the local area, putting the responsibility for the entire mission on the shoulders of the Kandahar-based aircrews.

It's great to have a direct impact on the war," said Airman 1st Class Patrick Snyder, an MQ-9 sensor operator who maneuvers the system's cameras and sensors as well as directs its munitions when launched. "We provide over-watch for the Canadians fighting the Taliban and then have coffee with them at the end of day (here at Kandahar.) It really makes us feel connected."

Capt. Ryan Jodi, a B-1 pilot who now flies the Reaper from his cockpit position in a ground control element, also acknowledged his preference for performing missions locally as opposed to Creech.

"I really enjoy doing the launches and landings from here," he said.  "It really gives you more of a flying feeling. And doing local missions is also great because we can really appreciate the camaraderie we have with our coalition partners who we live with here."

With spring arriving in Afghanistan, Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgents once again will ramp up hostile operations against coalition forces around the country as they have demonstrated each year during the duration of Operation Enduring Freedom.

However, with the planned increase of forces within the area, that means more assets are on the way, with 62nd ERS leaders preparing for additional aircraft and more mission sorties generated from combatant commanders. With nearly 10 additional Reapers coming to supplement the squadron's approximately dozen MQ-9 aircraft, Colonel Miller says that means more work.

"In 2005, we were generating about two sorties a day," he said. "We've more than quadrupled that now and we are going to expect a lot more coming in the future."

Col. Ted Osowski, the 451st AEG commander, agreed with Colonel Miller on the demand for the ISR hunter/killer platforms in-theater.

"No other asset is more sought after," he said. "Close air support and ISR are very valuable to the ground commanders."

Zachary Wilson  (AFNS)


Latest Ship Seizures Broaden Counter-Piracy Challenge

Two ship seizures in the Indian Ocean in recent days appear to indicate that pirates have broadened their focus beyond the heavily patrolled Gulf of Aden.

Pirates hijacked two chemical tankers: the Bahamian-flagged, Norwegian-owned vessel Bowasir March 25 and the Panamanian-flagged, Greek-owned Nipayia March 26, a Navy spokesman confirmed.

Bowasir and its 23-member crew were operating more than 380 nautical miles southeast of Kismayo, Somalia. Nipayia and its 19 merchant mariners were pirated 490 nautical miles east of Mogadishu, the official said.

The seizures were the farthest yet from the Gulf of Aden, where the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet and the international community stepped up patrols after piracy soared last year.

"This appears to be a new round of attacks well off the east coast of Somalia vs. in the Gulf of Aden where we had seen the majority of attacks last year and in 2009 to date," the official said.

The latest hijackings expand the pirates' operating area, creating what the official called "a monumental challenge" to those working to prevent piracy.

"To put the challenge into geographic perspective, the area involved off the coast of Somalia and Kenya as well as the Gulf of Aden equals more than 1.1 million square miles," he said. "That is roughly four times the size of the U.S. state of Texas or the size of the Mediterranean and Red Seas combined."

To better confront the problem, Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, who commands U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, stood up a multinational, anti-piracy effort known as Combined Task Force 151 on Jan. 1.

Task force members have national mandates to conduct counter-piracy operations and work together "to support our goal of deterring, disrupting and eventually bringing to justice the maritime criminals involved in piracy events," Gortney explained as the task force became fully operational in mid-January.

CTF 151 operates primarily in and around the Gulf of Aden but also in the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

At any given time, 12 to 16 warships from the task force as well as non-coalition nations are operating in the region.

"The international presence there is significant," the Navy official said. "We are working with everybody who is there."

But the vast size of the region would require 61 ships just to control the internationally designated shipping lanes, he said. "And that's a small portion of the area we are talking about."

Despite the geographic challenges, the task force's efforts are showing signs of success.

Pirates seized 42 ships last year, but 80 of the 122 piracy "events" were unsuccessful, the official reported. So far in 2009, 48 "events" have occurred, with 11 hijackings and 37 unsuccessful attempts.

Meanwhile, more commercial shipping crews are applying lessons learned so they can foil pirates' attempts.

Just this week, the vessel Preventor evaded an attack more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Dar el Salam, Tanzania. The ship's crew conducted evasive maneuvering and used charged fire hoses to repel the pirates, the official said.

Donna Miles (AFPS)


US Air Force delivers first C-130 to Polish military

American and Polish airmen delivered the first of five refurbished C-130E Hercules military transport planes and spare parts March 24 to the Polish air force at Powidz Air Base, Poland.

"It's a great day for them to celebrate the arrival of the Hercules. It's vital to them being able to -- own their own -- organically pick up and go," said Air Force Maj. Gen. William A. Chambers, the U.S. Air Forces in Europe director of air and space operations.

"They're one of our allies who are very willing to go," he said. "Whether it is Afghanistan or Iraq, they've been alongside the Americans in both fights. The 'Herc' is a great symbol of the American-Polish partnership, and we're grateful to be alongside them."

It was a sentiment echoed by Polish Brig. Gen. Tadeusz Mikutel, the 33rd Air Base commander.

"This is a milestone for our air defense. The plane is able to carry 17 tons of equipment or 90 equipped soldiers. That is why the plane will leave (our) CASA planes behind," General Mikutel said.

Also on hand for the celebration were Stanislaw Komorowski, Poland's vice minister of defense; Polish Lt. Gen. Andrzej Blasik, commander of the Polish air force; Pamela Quanrud, the deputy chief of mission for the American Embassy in Warsaw; and several Polish military and local government authorities.

The new plane expands the Polish air force's ability to transport troops and equipment, while providing support for evacuation and humanitarian operations. Its presence in the Polish fleet will also increase their interoperability with other air forces because the C-130 is used by several nations around the world, to include NATO allies.

The C-130 received an escort to Powidz AB by F-16s from the Polish air force when it neared its final destination, and performed two flyovers of the gathered crowd to showcase the newest addition to the Polish inventory. Upon landing, both the American and Polish crews were recognized for the achievement.

"I think we can accomplish a lot of missions to deliver cargo to our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq," said Polish Sgt. Andrzej Kozera, a C-130 flight engineer.

The Reserve aircrew from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and an active-duty loadmaster from Edwards AFB, Calif., picked the plane up in Waco, Texas, with their Polish counterparts after its refurbishment and flew it across the Atlantic, stopping at Ramstein AB. It made its final leg to Powidz AB, where it will become part of the 14th Lift Squadron.

The entire project, including total refurbishment of five aircraft, support equipment, supplies, training and contracted logistics support, is valued at $120 million. The donation is a result of an American pledge to provide Poland with such a capability, and is fully funded through bilateral military assistance grant money.

The delivery of the five modernized and upgraded aircraft is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2010.

Tony Wickman (AFNS)

      # END

Friday, March 27, 2009

Army Future Combat Systems Too Costly, Lawmaker Says

The U.S. Army can't afford to pay for its current size and buy all elements of the Future Combat Systems program, its key modernization effort, according to Representative Neil Abercrombie.

"For the Army, the fundamental choice appears to be keeping the new, larger Army we have today, or pursuing the massive list of Army acquisition programs" including the $159 billion Future Combat Systems, Abercrombie, a Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's panel on air and land forces, said today.

"Despite the Army's desire to pursue both goals, doing so is not affordable, and arguably unnecessary," he said in opening remarks for a hearing on the program, the Pentagon's second-most costly after the $298 billion F-35 fighter program.

Source: Bloomberg


Odierno: Dispute In North Could Still Destabilize Iraq

Violence in Iraq is at its lowest levels since 2003, but the top U.S. commander in Iraq is warning against complacency. In an exclusive interview with NPR, Gen. Ray Odierno says a brewing dispute in the oil-rich north could lead to renewed instability if left unresolved.


AirBorne Laser as Anti-SAM Platform?

Boeing has completed the first phase of its study of the Airborne Laser's capabilities in secondary mission areas, Boeing Airborne Laser (ABL) program director Mike Rinn told reporters March 25, adding that the Pentagon has looked at the numbers and assumptions used in the scenarios.

The company rolled out the second phase earlier this year, touching on more scenarios, different types of aircraft, different surface-to-air missiles, altitudes, and angles of attack. In the studies and "preliminary exercises," Rinn said the aircraft has demonstrated considerable potential in the counter-air and counter surface-to-air missile areas—but would require work and development to optimize the aircraft to those missions, particularly in the acquisition and tracking piece.

Gaps would need to be closed with sensors and radar cues, he explained and added, "We are currently optimized to look for a boosting missile." However, he said, "SAMs have a similar plume to a boosting missile." And, depending on altitude and ranges, that means the ABL could be configured to target those threats, Rinn said.

Source: AFA


American forces may not leave key Iraqi cities

The top commander of ground forces in Iraq says that US troops may stay longer than the June deadline in Baquba and Mosul, reports the Christian Science Monitor.


Brady Wants Accelerated F-35s for Europe

The F-35 partner nations are watching the development and testing of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) very closely, Gen. Roger Brady told defense reporters on Thursday. The US Air Forces in Europe commander is pressing hard to make sure his own squadrons get their aircraft concurrently with their allies—and that would mean speeding up delivery of the fifth-generation fighter. "We have nations that have planned and programmed for this, and we are trying to transition in USAFE at the same time the allies do," he said. "It's very important for interoperability."

From bed down procedures to training and the development of tactics, techniques, and procedures, the issue of coordinating efforts with the six F-35 partners in Europe is becoming "more of a topic of discussion than it was in the past," Brady added. "We have to have them the same time the allies have them," Brady said of the JSF. "I've been un-shy about that," he continued and explained that he believes the upcoming defense budget will show his efforts have paid off.

Source: AFA


General Brady Demands: Stop Cutting USAFE

Echoing comments made earlier this year by US European Command leader Army Gen. Bantz Craddock that US forces in Europe may be too few for assigned tasks, the top airman in Europe told reporters that he believes further reductions of the USAF presence on the continent is not a good idea.

"I think reducing assets is not a good thing," said Gen. Roger Brady, commander of US Air Forces in Europe, during a Washington roundtable Thursday. "I think it does not send the right signal to either our allies or to people whose motivations may be questioned."

Several NATO allies raised concerns about Russia's actions in Georgia last summer and are looking for signs that alliance solidarity is intact—not diminishing. Brady added that his advice to senior leadership is to hold off on further reductions to help deter potential adversaries but also to be able to continue with all-important capacity-building activities with allies.

Saying partnership building is "not just drinking tea," Brady noted that the less iron on the ramp, the less manpower—whether pilots, maintainers, or firefighters—he has to partner with the 26 NATO allies across the theater. Achieving interoperability, such as with Poland's recently acquired F-16 force, is critical, asserted Brady. "The less I have on the ramp, the less I have to build relationships with," he said.

Source: AFA


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Combined Team of Submariners Man Ice Station for Arctic Exercise

A small group of submariners gathered at the Applied Physics Laboratory Ice Station (APLIS) to support operations during Ice Exercise (ICEX) 2009, a training exercise designed to test the operational capabilities of submarines in an arctic environment.

The officer in tactical command of ICEX is Capt. Greg Ott, the deputy director for operations at Commander, Submarine Force (COMSUBFOR) in Norfolk, Va. Ott's role is to monitor the operational activities of the two participating submarines, USS Annapolis (SSN 760) and USS Helena (SSN 725), and to ensure that all the testing runs smoothly. Assisting him, and specializing in monitoring the weapons testing and approving any changes to the tests that need to be made, are Cmdr. Steve Benke, the force navigator at COMSUBFOR, and Royal Australian Navy Cmdr. Glen Miles, the tactical weapons development officer for Commander, Submarine Force Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC).

"Submariners know that the Arctic is a different environment," said Benke. "But to actually see the performance of a weapon in this environment, and in real time, has been an eye-opening experience."

Lt. Jeff Raunig, from COMSUBPAC; Lt. Chad Gallagher, from COMSUBFOR; Lt. Roger Callahan, from Commander, Submariner Squadron (COMSUBRON) 11; and Royal Navy (RN) Lt. Cmdr. Ian White are the range safety officers (RSO) at APLIS. Their missions are to ensure that Annapolis and Helena safely conduct their operations, which are in close proximity to each other in the unique Arctic environment. The RSOs take four-hour watch shifts so the position is always manned, and the camp can maintain constant communication with the submariners.

The submarines operate within a range that is mapped out on a grid in the command hut. By ensuring that the range is always accurate, the RSOs have reliable situational awareness of where the submariners are at any time. The RSOs are also the first point of contact for the submarines if there is an emergency.

"You have to practice in order to maintain proficiency in any environment," said Gallagher. "Training in the Arctic now gives the Submarine Force a strategic advantage as far as knowledge of the theatre is concerned."

RSOs cannot leave their watch station, so there is always an assistant range safety officer (ARSO) on duty with them. Sonar Technician 1st Class Jose Gutierrez, from the Arctic Submarine Laboratory in San Diego, and Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Lee Evans are two of the ARSOs who stand duty at ICEX.

They monitor all of the communications at the camp and are always in contact with the helicopter pilots, the airplane pilots, the logistics team in Prudhoe Bay, the two submarines and any field parties that may be operating from the camp. The ARSOs track the manifests, departure and arrival times of each flight, and the members, and departure and arrival times of each field party departing the camp.

"Prioritizing the communications can get tricky because there are so many people that we are managing at one time," said Evans. "We have to control the flow of information and make sure that the right people get the right information."

Lt. Cmdr. Nathan Hawkes, undersea medical officer for Naval Submarine Support Center and Lt. Huy Phun, the medical officer for COMSUBRON 11, are the medical officers for APLIS. Phun was on duty for the first half of the camp and turned over with Hawkes for the second half.

"We're mainly here for the divers," said Hawkes. "I'm trained in diving-related casualties, but I can provide medical aid to anyone at the camp who may need it."

The closest hospital to the camp is in Anchorage, Alaska, so if specialized treatment is needed, there are physician's assistants at a clinic in Prudhoe Bay. The medical officers do not regularly see extreme cold-related injuries and were briefed in advance of some of the unique injuries they might see, such as frostbite and lung freezing. Though cold weather injuries and wildlife are a threat, the biggest things to worry about are accidents and cardiac arrest in the extreme temperatures, said Hawkes.

At Prudhoe Bay, which is a 200-nautical mile plane flight, a logistics team keeps track of everything and everyone who travels between the mainland and APLIS. Anyone who is travelling to or from the camp must be in full arctic gear, so they are suited up in the hangar in Prudhoe Bay. Also, all of the food, building supplies and weapons that are being tested must go through Prudhoe Bay and be stored properly to protect them from the cold temperatures.

Electronics Technician Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Sine, Store Keeper Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Szynaka, and Machinist's Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Adams, all from COMSUBRON 11, are currently part of the logistics team at Prudhoe Bay. They assist in weapons shipping, plane onloading and ensure all travelers are outfitted with the proper gear. Adams was recently selected as COMSUBPAC's 2008 Shore Sailor of the Year.

Megan Isaac (NNS)


'Space Marines'? Not Quite

Amphib Squadron's Deployment Includes Space Ops

Sailors from Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 4, embarked aboard the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), are nearing the end of a seven-month deployment - which included integrated space operations - to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation.

Under the leadership of the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) commander, Capt. Brian Smith, the PHIBRON 4 staff planned and executed the operations of six Iwo Jima ARG ships: USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS San Antonio (LPD 17), USS Carter Hall (LSD 50), USS Vella Gulf (CG 72), USS Ramage (DDG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80).

"My staff effectively led the Iwo Jima ARG in executing maritime security operations and theater security cooperation in support of the Navy's maritime strategy," said Smith. "We executed a wide variety of operations with our ships and provided critical capabilities to Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet."

Managing such a large and diverse number of ships required skillful planning and execution.

"Our operations team planned, coordinated and executed all the operational matters for our ARG ships," said Lt. j.g. Benjamin Pearlswig, PHIBRON 4's operations officer. "One of our biggest successes was the flawless execution of three theater security cooperation exercises. It was great to work with our coalition partners, demonstrate our interoperability and really push towards expanding our global maritime partnerships."

In addition to managing the six ARG ships, PHIBRON 4 headed up several unique initiatives. One of the most significant involved the integration of space operations. Space operations remain a relatively new field for the Navy but are vital in providing a wide variety of warfighting capabilities.

"Our objective was to further 'operationalize' the Navy Space Campaign Plan and to develop the tactics, techniques and procedures to make space operations relevant and effective to the expeditionary warfighter," said Smith.

PHIBRON 4 was the first afloat staff to produce detailed space operations tactical guidance and to incorporate space operations into its daily operational planning cycle.

PHIBRON 4 also served as a launch area coordinator (LAC), an assignment that involves the mission planning to support the employment, if tasked, of Tomahawk cruise missiles.

PHIBRON 4 Sailors met all challenges head-on and led the Iwo Jima ARG assets through a successful and historic deployment.

"The PHIBRON 4 staff and the Iwo Jima ARG ships did an exceptional job this deployment," said Smith. "I'm extremely proud of all our accomplishments."

PHIBRON 4 is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima ARG supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complements the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Michael Starkey (NNS)


US Navy 4th Fleet Stands Up Maritime Operations Center

Commander, U.S. 4th Fleet officially launched the implementation process for the command's new maritime operations center (MOC) March 2.

The MOC implementation process will continue until the preliminary accreditation phase in August during the annual multi-national maritime exercise PANAMAX 09.

Through the Navy Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (NTTP 3-32.1) manual released in October 2008, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead directed all numbered fleets and Navy component command headquarters to adopt the MOC system, which allows commanders to more easily and effectively control assigned and attached forces by monitoring, assessing, planning and directing missions.

"This transition is taking place so we can better align and interoperate with the other numbered fleets and component commands using a common MOC system," said Rear Adm. Joseph D. Kernan, commander of both U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command (NAVSO) and U.S. 4th Fleet.

"Most importantly, the MOC provides for an institutionalized framework and process for the effective conduct of planning, operations and intelligence by a trained and focused team. We will more efficiently conduct our recurring missions, such as regional partner nation engagements, security cooperation and deterrence, all while maintaining the capability to effectively execute crisis response and contingency operations."

MOCs allow the Navy to maintain a state of readiness, providing commanders with all the necessary resources to constantly manage operations and be able to smoothly transition from peacetime operations to disaster relief operations and major combat operations, while still handling fleet management functions.

The structure and staffing of a MOC depends on the command's missions and the regional environments where operations will be conducted, which include preparing for existing or potential adversaries as well as natural disasters. Hurricanes and tropical storms are the most frequent natural disasters that occur in the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) area of focus, which encompasses the Caribbean, Central and South America, and surrounding waters and where U.S. 4th Fleet has operational responsibility of assigned assets.

"A functioning MOC will facilitate more effective, efficient and timely response to environmental disasters requiring U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR)," said Capt. Gregory S. Parker, of the U.S. 4th Fleet MOC Implementation Team.

U.S. 4th Fleet staff members received training Feb. 23-27 to better operate the command's MOC. Instructors from the Naval War College Assess and Assist Team provided the training to various members of the staff, explaining the MOC concept.

"As a MOC, we are aligned with all of the other numbered fleets, planning, monitoring and assessing operations in the same manner," said Cmdr. Craig Black of the U.S. 4th Fleet MOC Implementation Team. "There will be growing pains, but in the long run, the transition will be beneficial."

NAVSO, the Navy component command of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), oversees maritime operations throughout Latin America, including exercises and deployments, counter illicit trafficking support and theater security cooperation events.

U.S. 4th Fleet is the numbered fleet exercising operational control of U.S. Navy units temporarily operating in the SOUTHCOM area of focus

Alan Gragg (NNS)


Boeing Pitches ABL As Multi-Mission Solution

The Obama Administration appears to be headed in these tough economic times toward an austere 2010 defense budget. The Pentagon's missile defense regime—including the YAL-1A Airborne Laser—is in the crosshairs again, reports the Air Force Association.

Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated earlier this week at a Washington defense conference that missile defense is going to get a new focus in the coming years, moving away from weapons and focusing more on multi-mission sensors and intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities. No problem, Boeing officials told reporters during a Tuesday briefing.

"When [Cartwright] was talking, I thought he was talking to me, I thought he was talking to the ABL team," said Mike Rinn, Boeing's vice president and program director for the ABL. "It's flexible, it's adaptable, we believe it has multi-mission capability," he explained and added that the company has conducted internal studies to show that the aircraft has great potential in the counter air- and surface-to-air missile arena. He said, "We believe that it ushers in a whole new era."

In program news, Rinn said the ABL team continues with plans to begin flight testing out of Edwards AFB, Calif., in the coming weeks to test the integrated high energy laser and beam control system all in one. These elements have beentested separately.

Later this spring, the ABL team plans to fire up the laser for the first time at high power in the aircraft and begin engaging missiles with low power and testing the atmosphere compensation system in advance of the planned live shoot down—which is on track for August or September, Rinn added.

Source: AFA

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DOD Releases New China Report

The Pentagon on Wednesday released its latest review of the military prowess of the People's Republic of China. The report noted the "comprehensive transformation" being undertaken by China's military to covert from a mass army to one more suited to "fighting and winning short-duration, high-intensity conflicts along its periphery against high-tech adversaries."

According to the report, the "disruptive military technologies," including those aimed at "nuclear, space, and cyber warfare" Beijing has embraced are "changing regional military balances" with "implications beyond the Asia-Pacific region."

The Pentagon acknowledges that some of the capabilities China is developing have enabled it to "contribute cooperatively" to international peacekeeping and humanitarian and disaster relief operations, however, the report cautions against a continued "limited transparency in China's military and security affairs."

Further, the report notes that Beijing has used both US and Russian air forces as its models in building a "more flexible and agile force able to operate off-shore in both offensive and defensive roles." And, "newer and more advanced aircraft make up a growing percentage of [China's combat air] inventory," states the report. (Report, caution large file)

Source: AFA


Long Range Strike 'Fundamentally Critical'

Prompted by questions on the need to field a new bomber by 2018, the head of Joint Forces Command, Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, told lawmakers Tuesday, "The ability to penetrate and hold at risk what the enemy treasures is fundamentally critical" given the "imperfect world" in which we live. According to an Air Force Association report, he would not speculate on the type of long-range strike vehicle that might be, saying, "Whether it be the manned bomber [or] new UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles], there are a number of ways to address this issue." The fate—and timing—of the next-generation bomber is still in question, even though new defense officials at their confirmation hearings expressed the same measure of resolve as Mattis that a new LRS platform is vital.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

US Atlantic Fleet's First BMD Destroyer Wrapping Up Maiden Deployment

The guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61) is wrapping up its seven-month deployment to the Navy's 5th and 6th Fleet Areas of Operation as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) and is making preparations to return to homeport at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

Ramage's deployment marked the first east coast U.S. Navy ship to deploy equipped with ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities. This pivotal defensive capability gives Ramage the unique ability to intercept short and medium range ballistic missiles and provide crucial missile defense to America's interests and allies.

"Ballistic missile defense has become a core mission of the Navy and a key element of [the] maritime strategy and will continue to be well into the future," said Ramage's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Pete Galluch. "Ramage did an exceptional job in setting the standard for future BMD success."

During the deployment, Ramage was called upon to support a wide range of missions. From fulfilling duties as a strategic BMD asset within 5th and 6th Fleet, to conducting more than 100 approach-and-assist visits in the Central Arabian Gulf, to defending Iraq's maritime oil infrastructure – all skill sets of Ramage's crew were called upon to complete these missions.

"Our deployment has been a testament to the dedication and commitment that is required to complete such a broad range of tasks," Galluch said. "That Ramage was able to respond quickly and effectively to any mission given is a direct reflection of the continual vigilance and professionalism that our Sailors maintain. By their flexibility and perseverance, they have earned a very well-deserved return home."

Ramage also conducted counterpiracy operations, cooperative training with foreign navies, air defense operations with U.S. aircraft carriers, and other critical missions while maintaining a safe and professional work environment.

"This deployment clearly shows just how challenging and flexible the crew can be in flawlessly accomplishing multi-faceted missions and at many times conducting the missions simultaneously," said Ramage's Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jack Killman. "From the moment we entered 5th Fleet, our taskings drew national attention, and Ramage quickly earned the reputation of being the 'go-to ship' to get the job done. I am very proud of the crew and our many accomplishments executed safely and professionally on deployment."

Junior and senior Sailors achieved numerous qualifications and professional achievements while deployed. A large portion of their successes was attributed to the experience and leadership aboard Ramage.

"Deployment is a time to use and show off the skills and training that the crew developed throughout the year leading up to a deployment," said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Gerald Coulson. "During our deployment, Ramage Sailors were challenged with many operational tasks. The crew met and excelled in all warfare areas."

"Likewise, they improved themselves personally by completing numerous college-level courses, surface warfare officer (SWO) and enlisted surface warfare specialist (ESWS) qualifications, along with many watch station qualifications," continued Coulson. "We held two advancement exams during this deployment, and our Sailors once again excelled by achieving a 38.5 percent advancement rate -- well above the 25 percent national rate."

By committing themselves early in the deployment, Ramage leadership ensured success for the entire crew.

"Many of their successes were products of the guidance offered by their chain of command and leading chief petty officers," said Coulson. "These efforts were a direct result of Ramage's new dedication towards the mentorship program. Ramage Sailors know that operational excellence is an all-hands effort."

Ramage is deployed as part of the Iwo Jima Expeditonary Strike Group supporting maritime security operations (MSO). MSO help develop security in the maritime environment. From security arises stability that results in global economic prosperity. MSO complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations and seek to disrupt violent extremists' use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.

Patrick Whitmore (NNS)


Women Surface Warfare Officers in US Navy Have Come a Long Way

The women aboard the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) serve their country in many different roles, helping to defend a way of life and U.S. interests around the world while executing the maritime strategy.

Lt.j.g. Jamie Waggoner, a native of Mattoon, Ill., and Lt.j.g. Julia Hubertz, a native of Fort Wayne, Ind., serve as surface warfare officers (SWO) aboard Bataan. They are just two examples of how the military has become a diverse force, branching out to create equal opportunity for all.

The two officers came into the Navy with different ideas about the way of life, but the common goal was prominent. The Navy afforded them money for college, a reason to travel the world and the opportunity to proudly serve their country.

"For as long as I can remember, I wanted to join the Navy and become a naval officer. I wanted to be part of an organization that had a greater purpose than serving my own ambitions," said Hubertz. "I wanted to serve my country and give back to a community and country that has given me so many privileges."

Women first saw combat during World War II, serving as nurses following the Pearl Harbor attacks on December 7, 1941. In 1944, the Woman's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAC) arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II, and 16 were killed in action.

Despite their patriotic service, women weren't always on equal footing with their male counterparts, and Hubertz' decision to join was almost overturned because of that.

"When I first wanted to join the Navy, my grandfather did not support the decision. It was not that he didn't think I'd make a good naval officer, but he told me he didn't like the way women were treated when he served during World War II," said Hubertz.

"Obviously, the Navy has changed significantly since World War II, and things have changed vastly for women serving in the military. Now, my grandfather couldn't be more proud of the decisions I've made during my naval career."

After many years of change, women are now allowed to serve aboard combat ships, fly military aircraft and even command ships at sea. Women who served before them paved the way for SWOs like Waggoner who started out as an enlisted Sailor right out of high school.

"One of the best moments for me in the Navy was finding out I was selected for the Seaman-to-Admiral program (STA-21)," said Waggoner. "I love standing watch as officer of the deck. I get to coordinate flight operations, amphibious operations and other events, sometimes all at once. I also enjoy being a division officer and a role model for Sailors, helping them to grow and advance in their naval career."

Waggoner's decision to make the leap from enlisted to SWO came from the same drive most dynamic women in the military are known for. She wanted to take the extra step to mentor and train junior Sailors in a challenging role.

"I started off as an E-1, and now I'm an officer. I remember what life was like as an enlisted member aboard a ship and the long hours," said Waggoner. "I keep a positive attitude and greet Sailors in passing. I hope that my optimism becomes contagious, and I hope that they feel they can come to me for any questions they have.

"As a SWO, I also admire the senior female SWOs for accepting the demanding challenges the job and career entail. I aspire to be in their shoes one day," said Waggoner. "I also admire the senior enlisted females. I think they are a great role model for all females in the Navy, both enlisted and officer. They have overcome many challenges and continue to mentor and train all Sailors."

Nearly every aspect of the Navy's mission relies on the knowledge and expertise of the officers of the SWO community to complete some of the most technically and tactically advanced defense and war fighting capabilities on land, in the air and under the sea, making the job of a SWO one of the most demanding occupations, regardless of gender.

"It has not been an easy road, but you have to want it so bad that you can taste it," said Waggoner. "The blood, sweat and tears are worth the rewards. You appreciate your job and opportunities much more when you work for them and have not just been given them."

The drive to get to this stage in the SWO career requires a simple philosophy, and Hubertz hopes that more will be able to learn from the pair's experiences.

"Never give up on a dream. Sometimes dreams and plans have to be modified, but persistence and determination is the key to achieving your aspirations," said Hubertz. "Sometimes goals will not be accomplished on your timeline, but with persistence, particularly in the Navy, the time you invest pursuing your dreams typically pays off."

Christina Shaw (NNS)



The Air Force Research Laboratory Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX), working with Northrop Grumman and Universal Technology Corporation, has developed a portable, nondestructive evaluation (NDE) hand-held measurement and maintenance sensor system to characterize materials beneath aircraft topcoats.

The new system was conceived under the Next Generation Sensor (NGS) program and was designed to interrogate and measure electrical properties of specialty materials under thick ceramic tiles, stated Juan G. Calzada of the Directorate's Metals, Ceramics, and NDE Division.

"We produced and delivered a first-of-its-kind, hand-held NDE capability to measure specialty material electrical performance through topcoats and under thick protective ceramic tiles. This advanced technology provides the Air Force with a new, effective capability to nondestructively assess the performance and quickly quantify the degradation of materials underneath the outer layers of military aircraft," Calzada said.

"The program effectively demonstrated the capabilities of the advanced new sensor technology in a laboratory setting and culminated in the successful fabrication of two prototypes for testing and evaluation on operational aircraft," he added.

"Air vehicles incorporate specialty materials in advanced military aircraft structural designs. These materials must operate under very harsh conditions such as high temperatures and extreme vibroacoustic loads, both of which can lead to material degradation despite protection by a thick ceramic thermal barrier. Identifying and ascertaining the level of material degradation, therefore, is critical in maintaining the integrity and performance of the air vehicle's specialty materials," Calzada explained.

"Far-field images can identify a general problem but they cannot isolate specific points of degradation that may be due to the specialty material. Hence, once the general area has been identified, a large area of outer tiles must be removed in order to expose the specialty material for direct contact measurements. This is a costly process, both in labor hours and material replacement costs. The hand-held NGS tool measures the specialty material directly, without requiring tile removal, and thereby reduces the cost of repairs and inadvertent damage to other surrounding coatings and structures," he said.

The primary goal of the NGS program was to research and develop a through-tile measurement capability using a hand-held NDE tool to measure the specialty material under thick thermal protective coatings, Calzada emphasized. The program had three main tasks: research and develop a system design concept to meet program requirements; develop and fabricate reference coupons and standards; and develop a prototype hardware and software system and evaluate its performance in a laboratory and on-aircraft environment.

"Under the first task, the research and development team investigated the frequency requirement to achieve optimal detection capability. The team then selected the best candidate solution based on a trade study of four different antenna configurations, designed and packaged an enclosure with custom electronics to minimize external hardware and wiring, and modified the NGS software to achieve program goals," he said.

"In the second task, the team selected representative materials and assembled them to establish baseline reference standards. The reference standards were used to calibrate the NGS system response. The third and final task addressed different target locations caused by the tapered tiles of varying thicknesses. Sensor response as a function of the target-to-sensor distance (or the down-range distance) was also investigated. The team then formulated a down-range correction scheme in conjunction with the reference standards," Calzada said.

"At the conclusion of the effort, the team designed and successfully fabricated and delivered two NGS prototypes for testing and evaluation on operational aircraft. Through combined effort, the program effectively demonstrated the new system's capabilities and successfully met all program requirements. Transition of the new sensor technology supports the warfighter through improved maintenance practices and enhanced mission readiness," he added.

Pete Meltzer jr


ISR operations: Wartime 'Eye in the sky'

"Complete adaptation to environment means death. The essential point in all response is the desire to control environment." These words from the American philosopher and reformer John Dewey make the point that as conditions change, one must not simply adapt to them, but instead endeavor to control the new reality that is created by them.

This principle has been at the forefront of U.S. military innovation as a new battlefield has emerged characterized by militants, insurgencies and guerrilla warfare.

At the tip of this innovation are the revolutionary changes being seen in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations. This innovation can be seen in how ISR operations support Afghan and coalition forces on the ground as well as the Afghan population throughout the country.

"Clearly, airborne ISR capability has become indispensible to successful ground and air combat operations, and the U.S. Air Force brings the lion's share to the battle," said Col. Eric Holdaway, director of intelligence for Air Force forces in the Middle East and Central Asia.

With respect to combat operations, the ISR mission provides a level of planning, analysis and targeting support never seen before in the history of warfare.

"One of the most important aspects of airborne ISR is the way that it makes ground reconnaissance more effective, and vice versa," said Colonel Holdaway.

Lt. Col. Kirk Karver, deputy director of the ISR division at the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Southwest Asia, explains that "through analysis we provide information on the current situation, but also provide 'predictive' information giving combat forces visibility of emerging, future enemy actions and threats.

"In this same way, we are able to bring intelligence to bear on the targeting process, ensuring that we have the most accurate and precise information available so that we only effect the targets we intend to effect," he said.

The capability to enhance the targeting process is extremely important, as it demonstrates how this new technology contributes to reducing non-combatant casualties. Through the use of multi-source intelligence and real-time information delivery, ISR assets enable Afghan and coalition forces to be very patient in pursuing Taliban and Al Qaeda cells.

"Identifying and maintaining identification of targets is a significant capability to help reduce the risk of hurting the innocent," Colonel Holdaway said. "If women and children are there, you don't hit the target at that time; you wait until you believe you can hit the enemy and only him."

Colonel Holdaway emphasized the importance of new information gathering capability.

"Information is thus taken to a whole new level," he said. "With the new technology we have the ability to not just see the enemy, but build a 'pattern of life', enabling us to engage at a time and a place of our choosing."

This improved capability is important especially in light of the enemy tactics of fighting in and around civilian populations.

"Our duty compels us to pursue the adversary in a way that is both effective and, at the same time, does not endanger non-combatants," said Colonel Karver.

Colonel Karver added that another key aspect of ISR capability is in how it supports the Afghan government and citizens. Through its pre-route surveillance and convoy over-watch, ISR assets are able to provide exceptional security for humanitarian missions such as UN World Food Program convoys and provincial reconstruction team efforts to develop fundamental essential services.

ISR operations also support elections to include voter registration and providing election-day security through armed reconnaissance and overwatch. Maybe most importantly, Colonel Karver said, they provide security for national assets such as dams, power lines, and "watching and protecting" major cities.

ISR assets do all of this sight unseen; most of the time performing their missions invisible to those on the ground. They become an important force multiplier by enabling Afghan and coalition forces to make maximum impact with limited forces engaged on the battlefield.

Those who support ISR operations do not stop when the mission is completed. Their processing, exploitation and dissemination teams conduct continuous qualitative and quantitative analysis looking at every ISR flight to see how they could improve future performance. This continuous analysis and improvement has enabled these relatively new systems to quickly provide more and more value to those they support in a relatively short period of time.

Over time, the continued development of these systems will lead to a future where information is even more integrated into air and ground operations with all combatants viewing real time, common sets of data and reacting to furnished analysis with speed and accuracy.

ISR operations have given military leaders the ability to not just adapt, but in a large degree to control the many changing aspects of the battlefield. They do this through improved technology and process design, as well as a keen desire to deliver vital information to combatants in the field.

Colonel Holdaway summarizes ISR's new found value best by explaining that "through this new technology we have a better idea where enemies are and can better characterize their behavior.

"The resulting operational intelligence provided to Afghan and coalition forces helps provide a more secure environment for the Afghan people," he said. "We believe that will, in turn, allow them to rebuild their nation and provide their children with a better future, one in which al Qaeda has no part whatsoever."

Tim Johnson (AFNS)