Showing posts with label ISR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label ISR. Show all posts

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Aerostats - Providing Force Protection & Intel to the ANA

Photo by Resolute Support Headquarters
At one time in Afghanistan - when there were over 800 large bases and small outposts spread across the country side - one could continually see large white balloons floating overhead. The balloons - more accurately called areostats - had cameras on board that could pan across the ground below out to quite a few miles to observe for enemy activity. Now there are very few aerostats flying. Some are lofted overhead by the United States military at its few remaining bases in Afghanistan (Camp Resolute Support in Kabul, Bagram Air Field, and a few others). What many observers don't realize is that the Afghan National Army (ANA) is now operating its own aerostats (bought and paid for by the U.S. of course).

It took a while for the military intelligence professionals in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and then Resolute Support HQs to figure out that the Afghan National Army would need a capability like the aerostat. One wonders what the intel weanies were thinking about during those long years from 2002 to 2013 or so before plans to field aerostats to the ANA were formulated. For more on this topic read the paragraph below:

"All in all, my impression is that the Pentagon's near complete lack of emphasis on building an intelligence collection and analytic capability for the Afghan military and police is nothing short of pitiful. If the White House and the Pentagon are REALLY serious about giving the Afghan military and police the means to stand on their own and operate independently, this budget does not come close to doing it. The Afghan military and police must have their own well trained and equipped intelligence units if they are to have any chance of performing their missions after U.S. combat forces withdraw next year. Otherwise, the ANA and ANP will remain completely dependent on the U.S. for this vital combat enabler for the foreseeable future."  Paragraph from Little Spending on Intelligence Support for Afghan Military in New Budget, Matthew A. Aid, June 1, 2013.
But enough about that - the ANA is now flying its own balloons - although independent news sources provide a dismal accounting on the early efforts to keep them aloft, maintain them, and actually use the balloons for preventing attacks.

Don't despair! We now have a 'good news story' on how successful the Afghan security forces are in using the aerostats brought to you courtesy of a press release by Resolute Support headquarters. Read "With silent guardians, Afghan soldiers protect Kabul", Resolute Support News, November 5, 2016.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Drones - Refueling in Air Coming Soon!

One of the distinct advantages of a drone is the amount of time it can spend over a specific geographic area. Some variants can spend 12 to 18 hours overhead before having to return to base to refuel. Now, another milestone has been reached - refueling in the air. Drones are not that far away from being refueled in the air. This is good news for the infantryman on the ground. There have been many occasions where a unit on the ground involved in a "Troops-in-Contact" (TIC) cringed when they heard over the radio that their UAV coverage was going off-station. Read more in "A Drone Has Never Linked Up With a Tanker Until Now", by Joseph Trevithick, War is Boring, April 16, 2015.

This leads me to a random but related thought. When is the Coalition (specifically TAAC-Air) going to recognize that the Afghan National Army (or the Afghan Air Force) could benefit from a small drone package that could be employed at corps level? Maybe something similar to the GOCO package that fielded Shadows to U.S. Army brigades in Afghanistan; augmenting the BCTs organic Shadow unit.

Watch a four-minute video depicting Shadow operations by a U.S. unit at FOB Fenty (Jalalabad) in May 2013. I visited this unit at the time and the Shadow provided great coverage throughout the area - providing surveillance at routes (spotting or discouraging IED emplacement) and responding to TICs. They are not a great pre-mission reconnaissance platform in many cases because of the noise but the Shadow has its uses.

The GOCO contract for the Afghans could provide U.S. contractors operating and maintaining the Shadow package from the TAAC bases but also in conjunction with a training package developing ANA capability to fly and maintain Shadows over a two year period. So I am thinking the contractors are based on the Coalition bases at J'bad, MeS, Herat, and KAF working side-by-side with Afghan ANA Soldiers who are trained to run Shadow operations. Perhaps the intel folks found within the MI kandaks at corps level. If the Islamic State can field drones - using them to conduct reconnaissance and battlefield coordination - then I am thinking a 14 year old Army can figure it out. So we wean the Afghans off our drone capability and help them develop their own drone capability.

Oh oh. But we are only on these TAAC bases at best for one more year. Looks like we are two years too late with this idea. I guess we should have started two years ago when the war was only 12 years old.

Sorry, just thinking out loud.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


Army researchers are developing a pocket-sized aerial surveillance device. The Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance program is designing the device for Soldiers and small units operating in challenging ground environments. The Soldiers could use the CP-ISR device to observe around the corner of a building or into an adjacent room. The research is being conducted at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development, and Engineering Center in Massachusetts (formerly known as Natick Labs). The engineers are attempting to incorporate commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) technology and equipment to design the miniature ISR devices. Read more in "Army researchers develop pocket-sized aerial surveillance device",, November 19, 2014. (Photo U.S. Army).

Saturday, November 15, 2014

MC-12W Liberty Aircraft to Army

The United States Air Force is getting rid of its MC-12W Liberty aircraft. These unique aircraft were extremely useful in providing intelligence for the Afghan counter-insurgency fight. The MC-12W was a key component of the F3EAD process and in "attacking the network". But since we have won (not) the counter-insurgency war in Afghanistan and it is hardly likely that the U.S. Air Force will never have to support U.S. ground forces in a counterinsurgency (supposedly COIN is dead!) the USAF is dumping these extremely useful aircraft that generated great intelligence for the Afghan counterinsurgency effort. Fortunately the Army is smart enough to get some of the MC-12W transferred to their inventory. (Now if we can just get a hold of the A-10s). Read more in "USAF outlines divestiture plans for MC-12W Liberty aircraft", IHS Jane's 360, November 10, 2014.

Monday, February 24, 2014

ISR: More than Just Air Assets

The military community (including the Intel folks out there) have mistakenly re-defined "ISR" to mean air surveillance assets (usually drones). This is true across the entire spectrum of warfare as well as intelligence support to a counterinsurgency (the Afghan construct). A recent online article on this topic provides more information on the meaning of ISR. Read "Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance is Greater than Aerial Surveillance", Small Wars Journal, February 18, 2014.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDSs) in Afghanistan

"Tethered aerostats with Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDSs) that fly over separate forward operating bases in Afghanistan received capability upgrades recently with the addition of new Kestrels. Unlike the former versions, the revamped technology includes electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) features, enabling users to have a 360-degree view of targets in a city-size area after sundown and during the day. The addition of nighttime data gathering is growing in importance for coalition forces in Operation Enduring Freedom as insurgents adapt their techniques to attack after dark when detection is more difficult."

Read the rest of the article "Day/Night ISR Floats Over Afghanistan", SIGNAL Online, April 3, 2012.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Task Force ODIN Afghanistan an ISR Asset

(Photo by SSG Jack Carlson DVIDS)
Task Force ODIN Afghanistan will be busy even though most of the U.S. military is departing Afghanistan over the next two years. ODIN stands for Observe, Detect, Identify, and Neutralize. The unit was first established in Iraq. Task Force ODIN is an Intelligence and Security Command forward-deployed unit. TF ODIN consists of four aviation and intelligence companies and several detachments. TF ODIN operates a variety of fixed-wing airplanes and UAS vehicles. Read more about TF ODIN in "Task Force ODIN contributes to future Army aviation operations", DVIDS, March 17, 2012.