The Air Force is developing a new video sensor and creating 2,500 analyst positions to help gather and interpret the increasing flood of aerial surveillance data coming from the warfront and get it back to the troops on the ground, officials said Monday.
Lt. Gen. David Deptula, the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said the new technology, called the Gorgon Stare, would be available for deployment to the warzone on a limited basis early next year. The program will provide a much broader video picture, measuring about 2.5 square miles (6.5 square kilometers), from unmanned aircraft. It comes as Defense Secretary Robert Gates has called for a substantial increase in such aircraft systems in Afghanistan to provide critically needed intelligence for U.S. troops and their allies.
According to the Air Force, the new sensor will be able to transmit as many as 12 different views back to commanders on the ground, as opposed to the single view that the current unmanned aerial systems can provide. The new technology will allow commanders or troops to each see a view from the same system at one time. "We are going to be swimming in sensors and drowning in data," Deptula told reporters at a Pentagon briefing.
As the technology grows, Deptula said the Air Force would also require additional staff to analyze the data that comes pouring in from the sensors and send information back to commanders. Deptula and Brig. Gen. Dash Jamieson said the 2,500 staff members would be shifted from current Air Force positions, and would not require adding to the service's total personnel, which is now capped at about 332,000.
The goal, they said, will be to collect the data, process it, analyze it and get information quickly back to the warfighters. U.S. troops, along with Afghanistan and Pakistan forces, have been conducting increased operations along the eastern Afghan border, and thousands of Marines have launched a new offensive in southern Afghanistan, pushing into Taliban strongholds.
The sensor, which would be added to unmanned systems currently operating on the warfront, is named after the mythological gorgon, whose stare reputedly would turn a person to stone.
Deptula and Jamieson described the system as part of a new Air Force strategy that would enable all the military services to work better together to determine what intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities they need, and how to meet those needs. In the past two years the U.S. has greatly increased the number of unmanned aircraft systems operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, going from a handful of 24-hour patrols to 35 now. The goal is to get to 50 of the 24-hour patrols.