USAF Eyes Blue Devil For Afghanistan

Discussion in 'Americas' started by Neil, Jul 18, 2010.

  1. Neil

    Neil Senior Member Senior Member

    Jun 23, 2010
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    U.S. Air Force officials are exploring new ways to marry signals and imagery intelligence collection to find enemies on the ground in Afghanistan.

    One such project collocates collection of these two types of intelligence on slow-flying tactical Hawker Beechcraft King Air 90s.

    The program, dubbed Blue Devil, is designed to help operators more easily locate and quickly identify dismounted adversaries and enemy tactical communications. This is an Air Force-led project, with support from the Air Force Research Laboratory and Pentagon Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Task Force.

    The key to the project is the marriage of a wide-area surveillance camera system with signals intelligence, an Air Force official says. The goal with Blue Devil is to track individuals by using communications intelligence cues to help operators direct their imaging sensors. SAIC is the lead integrator on Blue Devil.

    Operators in Afghanistan have complained they often are challenged to precisely locate individual combatants on the ground when having to scan a wide area with only imaging sensors.

    The operational concept also could work in reverse as well. Using the wide-area camera system, large swaths of land can be surveyed and explored for evidence of communications networks. And, once located, signals intelligence can be positioned to listen in. House defense authorizers pushed for Blue Devil funding in the war supplemental budget for Fiscal 2010, and they say in a committee report that the Air Force should use it to assess the value of wide-area airborne surveillance (WAAS) technology in general. Blue Devil is viewed as a precursor to the Gorgon Stare project, which aims to put WAAS on the Reaper UAV.

    The Air Force Blue Devil effort also takes a step in the direction the Army would like to go with its Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System (Emarss) project, the outgrowth of the now defunct Aerial Common Sensor that will also be based on King Air aircraft. By late September, the Army is due to choose a systems integrator that will propose elements of the intelligence suite, such as the communications intelligence payload.

    The Army wants to buy four development systems, with the intelligence suite to be fitted on a Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350ER and provide 5-hr. mission endurance time (with 7 hr. desired). Emarss also would include a radar sensor for all-weather operations. Eyes Blue Devil For Afghanistan

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