Air defense: protecting skies over war zones gets tougher.
The airspace over Iraqi cities has become a traffic controller's nightmare. And it could get much worse, officials predict. The multitude of surveillance and cargo aircraft A cargo aircraft is an airplane designed and used for the carriage of goods, rather than passengers. This role demands a number of features that makes a cargo aircraft instantly identifiable; a "fat" looking fuselage, a high-wing to allow the cargo area to sit near the ground, a flying in war zones there continues to get larger--as it becomes more dangerous to move by ground. Air traffic congestion The condition of a network when there is not enough bandwidth to support the current traffic load.
congestion - When the offered load of a data communication path exceeds the capacity. just adds another complication for U.S. commanders planning missions in Iraq.
The Army general in charge of air-missile-defense forces, Maj. Gen. Robert P. Lennox, says that managing the complex airspace in Iraq is a major piece of the planning that goes into every mission.
"The air picture is more important and more complicated than it's ever been before," says Lennox, who commands the Army Air Defense Artillery Weapons and equipment for actively combating air targets from the ground. Also called ADA. Center in Fort Bliss Fort Bliss, U.S. army post, 1,122,500 acres (454,300 hectares), W Tex., E of El Paso; est. 1849 and named for Col. William Bliss, Gen. Zachary Taylor's adjutant in the Mexican War. Originally strategically located near the only ice-free pass through the Rocky Mts. , Texas.
U.S. forces so far have not contended with any significant threats from enemy aircraft or drones, but have been subject to insurgents' mortar attacks, and do not discount the possibility of 9/11-like suicide missions. Sorting out friendly unmanned aircraft Unmanned Aircraft (UA) is a term used in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) definition of Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). UA refers to the aircraft portion of the system required to operate it, also known as Unmanned Aerial Vehicle. , helicopters, fixed wing airplanes, artillery and mortar rounds increasingly requires sophisticated technologies that fuse data and provide tactical commanders with a consolidated picture of every friendly and enemy aircraft and missile in the area of operations An operational area defined by the joint force commander for land and naval forces. Areas of operation do not typically encompass the entire operational area of the joint force commander, but should be large enough for component commanders to accomplish their missions and protect their .
The airborne threats in Iraq or Afghanistan are non-traditional, and range from rockets, artillery and mortars, to kamikaze kamikaze (kä'məkä`zē) [Jap.,=divine wind], the typhoon that destroyed Kublai Khan's fleet, foiling his invasion of Japan in 1281. planes, Lennox says. "Depending on the time, we have provided air defense of areas in and around Baghdad because of 9/11 type threats, for example. Air defense soldiers have been doing that job off and on for the past couple of years."
Embedded in every Army brigade in Iraq is an "air defense airspace management The coordination, integration, and regulation of the use of airspace of defined dimensions. cell," whose job is to keep the brigade commander In the United States Army, the commanding officer of a brigade is a Brigade Commander. The position is usually held by a colonel, although a lieutenant colonel can be selected for brigade command in lieu of an available colonel. aware of what's going on What's Going On is a record by American soul singer Marvin Gaye. Released on May 21, 1971 (see 1971 in music), What's Going On reflected the beginning of a new trend in soul music. in the airspace.
While Air Force controllers keep track of fixed-wing aviation, the Army must monitor the flight paths of hundreds of helicopters, artillery projectiles and surveillance drones.
Although there are no indications that insurgents Insurgents, in U.S. history, the Republican Senators and Representatives who in 1909–10 rose against the Republican standpatters controlling Congress, to oppose the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the dictatorial power of House speaker Joseph G. Cannon. operate UAVs in Iraq, that could change, and the Army would be responsible for locating them and, if necessary, destroying them, says Lennox. "In the future, if bad guys have UAVs, our job will be to sort out bad guys' UAVs from friendly ones. You don't want a bad guy's UAV UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle
UAV Unmanned Air Vehicle
UAV Unmanned Aerospace Vehicle
UAV Unmanned Airborne Vehicle
UAV Uninhabited Air Vehicle
UAV Urban Assault Vehicle
UAV Unpiloted Aerial Vehicle (less common) hovering over your head. You have to know who it is and what they are doing. If necessary, you have to shoot them down."
Lennox is working with other senior Army officials to secure funding for technologies that help commanders create a cohesive picture of the airspace. One existing technology, called the "advanced warfare environment," started out as experimental software designed to link the sensors and weapons in Patriot (anti-missile) and Avenger (anti-aircraft) air-defense units. With this software, the Army Space and Missile Defense Command Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) is a specialized major command within the United States Army. The SMDC is an organization composed of five components:
In a broader sense, technologies that assist in air traffic management and air defense change the dynamics of how the Army organizes and deploys forces, he says.
An air-defense battalion commander In the United States Army and United States Marine Corps, the commanding officer of a battalion is a Battalion Commander. The position is usually held by a lieutenant colonel, although a major can be selected for battalion command in lieu of an available lieutenant colonel. now holds a much more relevant role, because he can provide "situational awareness" and can contribute more effectively to planning and executing missions, he says. In the past, air-defense units have not been involved in the "joint network" where the actual battle planning occurs, and that is now changing. "This new software allows the battalion command leadership to provide oversight of the battlefield that we didn't have before."
The goal is to give the commander the flexibility to choose the best weapon to destroy a target, regardless of which radar detected that target, he explains. "Currently, if I see something with a Patriot radar, I can't shoot an Avenger from that information. I can't use the Patriot radar to feed the Avenger. I can't fire another system other than Patriot from the Patriot radar.
"What we are hoping to do is tie these systems together and match the best shooter with the best target," says Lennox. The intent is to avoid having to shoot down a low-tech UAV with a $3 million Patriot missile. "I have to be able to share the tire-control data from every radar to every shooter. That allows me to make optimum use of the ammunition."
The Army's air-defense force currently is going through a major reorganization. Whereas the force previously was divided into air-defense and missile-defense battalions, it will now have "composite" air-missile defense units. Six battalions are expected to be fielded. So far, three are in place: one at Fort Bliss, another in South Korea and a third at Fort Hood, Texas.
The Space and Missile Defense Command, meanwhile, is seeking to expand the uses for the networking software that it developed for the Army's air-missile defense force.
The advanced warfare environment has been in development since the late 1990's. The Air Force adopted the technology when it deployed air-defense command centers in the Washington, D.C., area, shortly after 9/11, says Larry Burger, director of the future warfare center at the Space and Missile Defense Command.
The Air Force is adapting the software for its UAV hub at Nellis Air Force Base Nellis Air Force Base (IATA: LSV, ICAO: KLSV) is a United States Air Force base, in Clark County, Nevada, on the northeast side of Las Vegas. It is also treated as a census-designated place by the United States Census for statistical purposes, and so specific , Nev., and the Marine Corps has deployed this technology at a UAV operations center in Iraq.
The technology, Burger says, also is being applied in intelligence centers to fuse data from space, including navigation, commercial and military imagery.
The Space and Missile Defense Command, however, has had a tough time securing funding for this technology. "We are working with the Department of the Army to get all the approvals and [long-term] funding," Burger says. "We are in the middle of it, and I think we are making progress."
Linda Beach, an engineer who oversees the advanced warfare environment project, says she is hopeful that the technology soon can be "rolled into a real program." As is the case with many projects coming from small organizations, she says, lack of resources slows things down. "It's not the technology. Everything here is a financial problem."