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[infowar.de] USA Today zu System of Systems in Afghanistan
10/22/2001 - Updated 04:41 AM ET
Speed crucial in 'Information War'
By Dave Moniz and Andrea Stone, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON ? The U.S. military is filling the skies over Afghanistan
with fighter jets, heavily armed commando gunships and missile-firing
reconnaissance drones in an attempt to do something it has never done
well: identify seemingly ambiguous targets on the ground in a matter of
minutes and give pilots permission to attack them. "This war is all
about hitting moving targets," says Al Campen, a former Air Force
officer who wrote The First Information War, a book on the merging of
intelligence and military tactics during the Persian Gulf War.
Military sources and analysts say that a critical part of the war in
Afghanistan is reducing to 10 minutes or less the time it takes to find,
identify and order attacks on so-called "targets of opportunity." The
need to process this intelligence information and get it to the people
the military calls "trigger pullers" has seldom been more important to
success on a battlefield, experts say.
Being able to send video and digital data "significantly reduces the
time that it takes to (find a target) and allows pilots to get a
richness of information that you can't get with voice" communications,
says John Garstka, a civilian technology officer.
The war in Afghanistan may not introduce any startling new technologies,
but it will test the Pentagon's ability to adapt familiar weapons such
as laser-guided bombs and pilotless reconnaissance drones to battle a
There are several new wrinkles:
? The Air Force has armed Predator reconnaissance drones with missiles
that can be fired remotely against targets the aircraft spot during
? The Pentagon is flying senior officers in command aircraft near
Afghanistan. They can approve instant attacks on targets identified from
? All Navy F-14s and most F-18s are equipped with cockpit data links to
surface ships, satellites, unpiloted surveillance drones and other
aircraft. They provide real-time video and global positioning
coordinates of potential targets, Garstka says.
? Although it is several years away, the Air Force is planning to place
surveillance and communications equipment on refueling planes, the
aircraft that stay aloft for hours at a time over or near enemy
A big advocate for the push to get closer to real-time targeting is Gen.
John Jumper, the new Air Force chief of staff. Jumper has for several
years sought to improve the military's speed in attacking emerging
Such decisions aren't difficult when they involve easy-to-identify
objects such as enemy tanks or military convoys. In some cases, pilots
would not need to get approval to attack identifiable military targets.
But when intelligence pictures show images that are not clearly targets,
such as a string of civilian vehicles, it has historically taken too
long for intelligence officers to identify them and for commanders to
During a breakfast this week on Capitol Hill, Jumper acknowledged that
the biggest challenge to faster targeting is changing a culture that
fostered separation of intelligence specialists from bomber and fighter
"The key is developing a generation of intelligence warriors," Jumper
In Afghanistan, the Pentagon is attempting to leap ahead and mesh
surveillance technologies with precision-guided weapons. One military
official familiar with targeting decisions against Taliban forces said
the challenge is not getting clear, real-time pictures of the enemy. The
official said the military is now interpreting live reconnaissance
images in less than 10 minutes. But getting commanders to instantly
approve attacks remains a problem, the official says.
Since the Gulf War, the Pentagon has proved that it can employ an array
of precision-guided missiles and bombs to hit stationary targets or
large formations of military vehicles. But in Operation Allied Force in
Kosovo in 1999, the inability to quickly identify and go after things
that moved ? including small groups of soldiers ? showed the
shortcomings of high-tech aerial warfare.
"The track record isn't good," says Christopher Bolkcom, an aviation
analyst with the Congressional Research Service. "And it's hard ? is
this guy in a Toyota pickup a legitimate target or some poor civilian
going about his business?"
According to military sources, the Pentagon plans to station generals in
large, airborne command-and-control airplanes with the authority to give
an instant order to shoot should U.S. combat planes or reconnaissance
aircraft locate terrorists or Taliban leaders.
First reported in Aviation Week magazine, the new command structure
would provide constant surveillance of some moving targets through an
array of technologies that includes satellites and aircraft that can
follow the movements of people and vehicles.
Some are skeptical that the military will succeed in closing the gap in
Nick Cook, an aerospace consultant for Jane's Defense Weekly, says that
during the Gulf War, the lag time between finding a new target and
shooting at it was "many hours, if not days. That was quite unacceptable
for hunting mobile Scud missile launchers."
Cook says he doubts the Pentagon can reduce the lag time below several
hours, even with its new technology.
During the Kosovo war, the Air Force reported being able to beam U-2 spy
plane photos from Europe to California and back in as little as 12
minutes. Sources say the Pentagon has been able to further reduce the
time it takes to look at an image and determine if it's a target.
The military "has to invent as we go along," said David Ablest, a
Pentagon intelligence specialist.
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