tv This Week in Defense CBS April 1, 2012 11:30am-12:00pm EDT
reconnaissance capabilities and welcome to "this week in defense news," i'm vago muradian. in the decades since 9/11, the united states has invested billions of dollars to improve its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, giving the u.s. military the unprecedented ability to monitor its enemies worldwide. referred to as isr, the information gathered helps shape strategies, support ground troops, detect emerging threats and strike with precision when needed. one of the nation's most important isr units is the 9th reconnaissance wing at beale air force base, 50 miles north of sacramento, california, home to some of the service's most unusual aircraft, including the ven ecial u-2 spy plane, the long endurance rq4, remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and the twin-engine nc-12
turboprop intel plane that's in wants to give an -- give up a version of the unmanned global hawk and transfer the mc12 fleet to the air national guard. both remain proposals until approved by congress. and now three interviews from our trip to beale. we'll talk to the global hawk and mc12 squadron commanders later in the show. first, i asked curtis laurel a career you 2 pilo >> we are becoming a center of excellence here. we have had the u2 here for many decades. sr 71 before that. the global hawk for most of the last decade and now the mc 12. and in addition to all of the collectors, we also have the other side of the equation, does all the process, exploitation and dissemination of the intelligence we gather.
with the beale, we have the collection and processing and exploitation and dissemination. >> let me ask you, there were those people who say you know space really is a much better place to do the reconnaissance job from. why are -- such air breathing systems like the u2 and the global hawk and mc 12 important? >> space is valuable piece of the intelligence equation but the airborne assets can be put wherever we need them. whenever we need them. so they're a lot less predictable. in terms of our ability to collect what we need to collect. also because they fly lower are able to get higher resolution in some cases imagery and listen in on things with signals intelligence capabilities that you may not have with this. so the systems complement each other and they're part of a broader isr collection throughout the d.o.d. >> the question of the u2 and the global hawk and the great debate that surrounds these two
airplanes. the u2 originally was supposed to be replaced by the sr 71. the 71 went out of service then the hawk was tapped in the last decade and said okay global hawk is going to replace the u2 in 2015. and until recently the air force has been saying that but until recently they've had misgivings about that transition. you're familiar -- intimately familiar with both of the planes, what are the pros and cons of them? what are the advantages and disadvantages of each? >> both weapons systems have tremendous capabilities and advantages and they complement each other very nicely actually. the u2 can carry more payload and we can collect in more areas than we can collect with the global hawk. but the hawk has greater range and endurance. where u2 may fly 12 hour mission, the global hawk can fly 30 hour mission. that trust lains into greater range as well -- translates
into greater range as well. so the two systems complement each oh. another thing is the u2 has sensors that you have to swap out depending on what the mission requirements are. whereas the global hawk can carry all of the sensors every time they fly. on the other hand, the u2 has signals intelligence sensors that the hawk doesn't have at this time although we're bringing signals intelligence sensors on the global hawk with the next generation coming out the next year. so the two -- the two systems actually complement each other nicely. >> there once was a line between strategic and tax cool recon since, does that even -- tactical reconnaissance, does that exist anymore? >> we can use strategic collection assets in a tactical environment where we're collecting tacts cool intelligence and sharing that in a near realtime situation. so the lines can be blurred. we have weapons systems that are more capable across that spectrum tacts cool through operation and strategic. but it depends on the actual
requirements for that particular mission. >> this is sort of a new golden age of reconnaissance. i mean you know, you've got -- unmanned systems that are calibrated to a massive degree but one of the most importants parts is the ability to analyze and december seminate the mission. what are this wings we need -- with things we food to do to lighten the load? >> there has to be a balance between the collection and the exploitation -- the processing and exploitation and that's a tremendous challenge because we are developing new collection platforms and sensors that are collecting greater and greater volumes of information that need to be processed and exploited and december seminated. the networks that connect all of our systems as well from collection through the -- back end or the processing exploitation and dissemination are key to the whole
architecture. another area where we can be challenged by bandwidth. they form the entire system of systems if you element we are doing our best -- will. we are doing our best to develop those and blank those where we're collecting volumes and volumes of information and not enough people to understand the information. >> you've been in the game for a long time. if you were making an aircraft from the prompt up. what would that aircraft look like to handle the strategic reconnaissance or long-range or denied air space reconnaissance mission? >> it all starts with the mission requirement. we design with that mission requirement. it depends on where you want to collect that information, whether that's an area, it's a permissive environment. for example in iraq and afghanistan, we can fly pretty much overhead and collect whatever we need. there's other areas where we're flying that we don't have that freedom and don't -- maybe
denied or restricted environment and we have to design the systems that allow us to penetrate and collect the intelligence we need to collect. so if we were designing a new or evolving current weapons system for reconnaissance and you wanted to go to areas where you aren't permitted, then you might want to design in the capabilities that would let you get to those areas and collect what you need. for example, you mentioned collecting from space. that allows us to fly directly overhead some areas where we can't fly with an aircraft and collect some intelligence that might be valuable. if we design a weapons system that has stealth capabilities, you can penetrate an area that you otherwise wouldn't be able to penetrate to collect that intelligence that you need. >> coming up, a look at the global hawk unmanned spy plane. stay tuned. you're watchin
since entering service in 2001, the remotely-operated global hawk has become an important air force platform, designated the rq4 by the air force, the north rup grommond aircraft was designed to fly above 60,000 feet, carry optical, images radar, signals intelligence and relay packages and remain airborne for a day or more. although never designed to replace the u2, the global hawk was so promising, creators hoped the block version would replace the manned dragon lady around 20 faryn 15. but the u2 looks to have gotten a new lease on life and now plans to cancel the
multimission global hawk saying it cost more with performance than the u2. the u2 would continue gathering high fidelity reconnaissance while global aircraft would have relay functions. global hawxes are deployed worldwide but deployed from mission control stations at beale. airmen that operate the aircraft over combat zone, live desert tan flights and live, eat and sleep to keep in sync with airmen, commands the 12th reconnaissance squadron which commands the global hawk, i asked him how the aircraft was performing. >> since we retired the rq 4 a, we're performing six missions a day. the aircraft is improving in reliability the more we fly it. the more we fix it.
the more we break it. the more we fix it. and the cycle and training similar proving. the logistics tale of it is getting better and the more we fly and nor we fix, the more we are getting out of it. >> what are your reliability rates right now? >> we've been exceeding our goal. in the last three months exceeded 85% mc rates. >> mission capable. where do you want to take that number to? >> better than 90% of course but everyone wants a perfect store and you continue to welcome -- score and you continue to work as best you can. >> what are the differences with the a. and b. model of the aircraft? >> size for one. is sensor is improved. and then the -- endurance of the aircraft is up another 10%. well -- i take that back. it's gone from 22 hours to 30. >> right. >> so that's -- >> you're going to and me to do some math in public. it's eight hours about 40%
increase. and aside from that, you still have the electrooptical and infrared sensor, capturing radar and the signals intelligence package on one airplane. >> correct. >> which is pretty useful capability around the world. >> we are able to cross cue. it's a package and it finds a point of interest, wearable to use -- the electrooptical to take an image of the same coordinates and cross queue the two. >> what you do forward and how that intelligence information is fed into the global system? >> well, the aircraft launched from a forward operating location. we have three of them worldwide. i have crews, pilots, that are forward deployed at a lunch and recovery element that have a line of sight linked to the airplane. to taxi it and control it without relying on space base assets to be able to communicate with the airplane. they'll get it to the runway.
and then hand it over to the mission control element here at beale, which is the cockpit here at beale. then we'll take control of the aircraft and fly it on its mission and then return it to be -- back to the element at the end of the day. >> tough boxes -- are here and you have four of them. >> we have four mission control elements here that include -- workstations that can control the sensor. and then dynamically retask the sensor as we go along. >> the aircraft is a very, very powerful vacuum cleaner on all out of the things that it does -- of the things that it does. i mean you remember talking about -- you were talking about a trained operator can take really 70 high fidelity images an hour but that's a huge volume of stuff to push through the system especially the distributed common ground sensor. can you choke that? if you're not really careful about what you're trying to pump through the pipe? >> well -- the beauty of the
distributed common ground system concept is the fact that if we're overtasking one particular tbs. they can redirect it to another dgs that may not be as that isedded at the time -- tasked at the time and in a lot of cases we will specifically prescreen the images and ignore images one through three, number four is the one that's going to answer the essential element. >> what are the differences between predator and reaper and how they operate and how the global hawk operates? >> well, the predator is typically within an hour or two of its target area. while it has a long lawyer time. it's typically not going to fly longer distance because it's at lower altitude and mixing it one the weather. the global hawk because we fly over the weather, we typically fly a greater distance. more international borders to cross and in some cases 12 time zones to cross to get an airplane from here to there. that's one of the major
differences in how they operate. it's just that the sheer distances that we're covering. >> but the global hawk's also more intelligent so for example if you have a loss of signal it figures out the next base it's got to go to or come back to momma. >> correct, the level of you a tonmy is greatly different. the predator can have two states it will be in. a state where the pilot is in control and a state where the airplane is on its way home. the global hawk can have five states it can choose that i am being controlled by my pilot. i'm not being controlled by my pilot and i need to go home. i need to -- i'm not being controlled by my pilot and i've lost an engine and i need to land or i have another malfunction it's time for me to go home early. finally it can send itself around and return to the airfield on the go around to land a second time. >> how serious of a constraint is it on you, some of the faa regulations and international regulations that really complicate the use of the
remotely piloted aircraft in international and domestic air space? >> that's probably one of the biggest challenges with the global hawk. we can't file and fly like a manned aircraft so we do a considerable amount of negotiates with the faa and any other -- negotiations with the faa and any other foreign countries on where to put the airplane. how it will -- and the education that we need to give them on how it will behave. if it goes to different contingency states. and then coordinating to use fields on those -- in those countries is a lions share of the work because if the plane loses an engine it can safely recover itself on a piece of concrete as a runway all by itself. >> right. >> so we need to precoordinate all the actions, how it's going to fly the rest. >> sir, thanks very much for your time. >> you're welcome. coming up, a look at the
priority program to rapidly field a reliable reconnaissance aircraft to furnish ground troops with full motion video surveillance. born as project liberty, it resulted in a new aircraft with high reliability, long range and an array of powerful optical and signals intelligence sensors to see and hear the bad guys. that aircraft developed by l3 communications debuted in iraq in june of 2009 and with the end of operations there late last year, the mc-12 fleet deployed to afghanistan to support ongoing operations. the air force has 37 mc-12s, most in afghanistan and each has one pilot and three sensor operators. lieutenant colonel harley, we can't use his last name as the commander of the 489th reconnaissance squadron. i asked him about the lessons learned in iraq that are being applied to afghanistan. >> some of the biggest lessons we learned from the beginning, early on in june of 2009 being the first time we deployed with the mc-12 in iraq, we learned right away that being the new kid on the block, not a lot of people knew how to use this. eight months from concept to combat, i mean, we didn't have any time to train with any of our ground forces.
so we had to do a lot of training on the fly with the ground force commanders that we were designed to support. we took a lot of those lessons learned when we stood the first squadron up in afghanistan, the 4th expeditionary squadron in june of 2009, education was the key for that. that was one of the first things we really started to try to do was sit across the table from our ground force commanders, being army, marines, navy, coalition forces and really try to teach them the capabilities of the mc-12 and what made us different than the other platforms they'd worked with up to that point. >> what does make you so different from the other platforms out there and what's the key to your efficacy? >> we think the key to our efficiency is a couple of different things. first of all, we're putting the man and woman back in the loop which we we're proud of. there's four airmen in the mc- 12 over the airspace and the ground force troops that we're supporting. that's important for a couple of different important things. we have floord-looking
operations taking them quickly into the platform and digest that and inform the ground forces commander and in a timely, reat and relevant information so they can now make tactical decisions in the battle space quickly and be right each time they make that. >> what are the differences in how you operated the aircraft in iraq and how you're operating the aircraft in afghanistan? >> what we learned in afghanistan that was a little bit different than iraq is some of the operations were a little bit more robust. we obviously -- obviously iraq was a much more mature conflict. afghanistan was still kind of spinning out, especially as we surged in 2009, 2010 for that. so we started to find ourselves playing more of a relevant role of being kind of a command and control relay through across- the-board, multitude of airplanes, both kinetic and nonkinetic. >> what's the key to getting -- obviously this war is more about getting the right piece of information to the right person at the right time, i
mean, that's critical in any conflict, but particularly so in this one. what's the key to making sure that you are moving that information as quickly as possible to the guy who needs it? >> we think the key is the relationships that we have built with our supporting units. our supporting units, many of those are on their third and fourth deployments in afghanistan. many of them are experts on the warfare that's happening in afghanistan. and by building that relationship with them and understanding what their desired effect is allows us now as the airmen and the expert to be able to take the information in and turn around and deliver that information to them in a way we know that's going to help them. >> airmen who have been on the mc-12, just like some of the folks who have been in predator and reaper who are preanl watching -- persistently watching enemy combatants and that has led to folks saying, look, i mean, you get attached, there are certain ptsd issues and challenges. have you seen that, how relevant is it and how are you guys dealing with that to keep
it from being kind of a long- term issue? >> we are definitely seeing it as an issue, and we are addressing it as an issue. it was something that we learned as we stood up the platform in june of 2009 and started flying combat operations and as we flew more and more, it became more and more relevant to us this is an issue that we need to address for that. and what we learned was preventing it and talking about educating it early, ie in a screenining environment prior t trying to deal it in a visual once they redeployed and now of a curing mode is a much more effective way of doing that. the way we've addressed that is that we now talk to our students who come here to the training unit and we explain to them what they are going to see and we explain to them there are emotional results that can lead to a ptsd type of thing that they need to address. we give them the education, the tools early, so now before they ever get into a combat environment, they understand it. and so during the combat
since the first balloons flew into battle nearly 220 years ago, commanders have known that the higher you go, the farther you can see. and the longer you can stay aloft, the more you can see. over the past 10 years, the united states has established an unprecedented network of aircraft and analysts to watch, track and target america's most dangerous enemies. anyone who questions how fundamentally u.s. war fighting has changed over that time hasn't been paying attention to what clearly has been a golden age of reconnaissance. whether over iraq, afghanistan or a dozen other hot spots
around the world, u.s. systems persistently watch and track individual targets, learning their targets and striking at will. it's a multi-layered system that starts in space going all the way down to the ground, blowing the lines between tactical and strategic successes. the spy planes are in greater demand than ever even though reaper, global hawk, rq170 and others beam signals to ground froops and commanders with unprecedented speed. but america has achieved a success largely where its own disguise. it won't always have that advantage as budgets are cut, it's essential the pentagon invest more, not less in isr capabilities to ensure the united states continues to see farther and see more than its rivals no matter where they are or what defenses they erect. thanks for joining us for "this week in defense news." before we go, a special thanks to general norton schwartz, air force general chief of staff and all the airmen at beale air force base who make this show possible. and a happy 90th birthday