USAF's ISR force in Afghanistan was building prior to surge plan.
—Michael C. Sirak
Dec. 3, 2009—The Air Force is examining how best to support the intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance needs of the bolstered US presence in Afghanistan next year as unveiled by President Obama on Tuesday, Lt. Gen. David Deptula, USAF's point man for ISR issues, said Wednesday.
But the service has already been surging new platforms and information-gathering capability to the war theater to support the ground troops there, so there will be no radical departure in USAF's approach, Deptula said during an Air Force Association-sponsored Air Force Breakfast Series presentation in Arlington, Va.
"The Air Force will be part of this plus-up and we are continuing to explore, 'Okay, how can we deliver more, better, faster?'" Deptula told reporters after his talk.
But, he said during his speech, "It's not like we've been waiting around to determine ... what is going to be the force-increase option. We've been building capability."
Obama announced in a speech Dec. 1 at West Point that an additional 30,000 US troops will deploy to Afghanistan in the first half of next year to enhance the ability of the NATO-led force there to go after insurgents and protect population centers.
Deptula said this build-up reinforces the need for more information.
"What I want to do is focus on how do we deliver more capability rapidly," he said.
The Air Force has already increased the overhead information-gathering capability provided by remotely piloted aircraft like the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper by more than 300 percent over the past two years and is still moving these platforms to theater as quickly as possible, he said. It has also been introducing MC-12W manned surveillance platforms on an accelerated schedule. So the ability to surge more platforms is limited.
But fielding more capable sensors in the near term on the platforms already in the theater or in the pipeline to go there could have a big impact, said Deptula.
For example, the Air Force expects to add a new podded wide-area surveillance sensor called Gorgon Stare on its RPAs starting next April that will increase the amount of live simultaneous video feeds from a single overhead platform from one to more than 10. And this number of feeds will grow to 30 in 2011 and then 65 after 2012 in later iterations of this sensor system, he said.
But even here, efforts to get more there faster are somewhat constrained.
"If I am going to deploy Gorgon Stare in six months, what do you want me to do? Deploy it tomorrow?" said Deptula in making that point.
He emphasized that the Air Force is providing the maximum amount of ISR capability given the budget that it has.
(Full text of Obama speech)
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