In the wake of the U.S. Air Force leadership shake up, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is directing the service to field six more Predator combat air patrols (CAPs), as well as more Reapers to support operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The order comes shortly after Gates’ first briefing from the new Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force June 6. He set up the task force in April, explaining during a speech at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., that getting warfighting support from institutional military — namely, the Air Force — was “like pulling teeth.”
A lack of support for the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was one of several reasons cited by insiders and observers for his abrupt ousting of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley.
While DOD is looking across the services for ISR support, the Air Force’s immediate task is to field more Predators and Reapers, which provide much-desired full-motion video to operators on the ground. The Air Force has fielded 25 Predator MQ-1B CAPs — each including four air vehicles plus ground control and support — as of this month. Gates is directing that six more be fielded by December, a military official says.
Industry, meanwhile, is compiling copious options for the task force. Goodrich is preparing to begin flight testing its latest upgrade to the Senior-Year Electro-Optical Reconnaissance System, Syers-3, this summer. Syers-3 will be used during a summer 2009 demonstration funded by a fiscal 2008, $16 million congressional plus-up to the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS). The concept is to co-host the moving target indictor capability of the Joint STARS radar as well as the electro-optical imagery of Syers on the same platform.
Rules of engagement typically call for an image of the target from a camera — not a synthetic radar image — before launching weapons.
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