New Drone Sensors “Not Operationally Effective”

Air Force field testers concluded in a draft report that a new wide-area surveillance system for use with remotely piloted aircraft is “not operationally effective” and should not be fielded despite Air Force that expect the system will still be deployed by late winter in Afghanistan.

A Dec. 30 report by the Air Force’s 53rd Wing Group at Eglin Air Force Base said that the new system, dubbed Gorgon Stare, had “significant limitations,” including an inability to track people on the ground in real time, and a delay in sending real-time images to the ground.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, is still “in favor of fielding this capability as soon as practicable, with the expectation that any technical issues would and could be adjusted and modified once it was in the field,” said Capt. John Kirby, his spokesman.

The Gorgon Stare surveillance system consists of nine cameras attached to a pod that is designed to be carried on an unmanned aerial vehicle. It is supposed to provide images of a “city size” area.

But the draft report concluded that Gorgon Stare should not be launched until a number of issues were resolved.

“The Air Force can say anything it wants and talk itself blue in the face,” said Winslow T. Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information, who obtained and circulated a copy of the report. “But none of the major problems have gone away.”

The issues include deficient infrared performance, which would hinder the sensor’s ability to capture images at night; inadequate resolution of images to track people on the ground in real time; a 12- to 18-second delay in receiving images on the ground; and “unpredictable” system reliability and lack of system documentation.

from Ellen Nakashima Washington Post

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