Brian D. Graves - ES 771

6 December 2005

Abstract & Introduction

Carl Von Clauswitz, a Prussian military officer in the 1800s coined the term the "fog of war." It has described from the beginning of warfare to present the state of confusion, unknowing or an otherwise general lack of information about the enemy, his whereabouts and other factors influencing a successful outcome. Remote sensing in its military application from its beginnings as aerial reconnaissance in hot air balloons to the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and satellites of today has sought to see through or lift the "fog of war." Lifting the "fog" ensures military commanders on the ground can make timely decisions and positively shape the battlefield.

Today’s United States military transformation effort is focused not only on increasing military equipment advantages with new technologies but more so on integrating existing technologies and creating synergy between national assets operated by numerous government agencies. Remote sensing assets form a large portion of the military transformation effort into the 21st century as they not only lift the "fog of war" but also enable rapid global precision engagement. First, several case studies from recent conflicts will be reviewed which involved both the success and failure of remote sensing in influencing the outcome of battle. Several current technologies including JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar System) and Global HAWK integrate well into the concept of network centric warfare, a key element of the military transformation and providing data for precision engagement, a tenant of United States Air Force global power projection. In addition there are emerging technologies such as HALL, High Altitude, Long Loiter airships which hold promise for the future of network centric warfare and military transformation.

Case Studies - Failure and Success

The first case study comes from the Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. On April 2, 2003, a US Army Battalion , Task Force 3-69, bravely fought for and secured a bridge designated as “Objective Peach” during relentless attacks from Iraqi armor and infantry assets in what was probably the conflicts largest single engagement. Iraqi forces moving in mass with large combat vehicles should have been easily detected and targeted by remote sensing assets for engagement by close air support as they were moving in to attack Objective Peach. Instead, US Army soldiers on the ground defended the bridge in close combat for nearly 24 hours against numerically superior forces, but in the end secured the key bridge over the Euphrates River, paving the way for the invasion of Baghdad.

What went wrong? 1m resolution satellite imagery of Objective Peach had been surveyed but enemy strength was underestimated due to the use of simple camouflage techniques and the hiding of forces among the buildings and streets of the urban area. Furthermore, follow on reconnaissance from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles such as the Predator UAV was not conducted as this US Air Force asset was designated to support Air Force operations in the theater. Had additional sensors been placed over the battlefield at Objective Peach, the advancing Iraqi forces would most likely have been detected and subsequently targeted. Assets such as the Predator UAV with its suite of electro optical sensors or even the JSTARS (Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System) airborne platform have had the ability for years to accurately detect, track and target enemy forces on the ground, especially if they were moving. However, a lack of communication, joint understanding and integration of assets amongst military services led to a brutal battle which could have been more easily won.

The second case is a success story out of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. On 26 March 2003, the text book and literal example of “the fog of war” occurred. During a blinding sandstorm, a JSTARS aircraft (modified Boeing 707) utilized synthetic aperture radar to detect and identify a vehicle convoy moving south out of Baghdad. The JSTARS then coordinated this information directly with ground forces, which in turn coordinated highly successful air strikes against this enemy force with no casualties suffered.

This case study illustrates the not only the ability of remote sensing assets to see through the “fog of war” but also the force multiplier effect that remote sensing assets bring to the fight by facilitating rapid precision engagement of numerous target with fewer assets.

The US military transformation seeks to create synergy between our current technologies by increasing communication and integration through the concept of network centric warfare. The latter case study shows how this is possible as data gained by the Synthetic Aperture Radar system aboard the JSTARS aircraft was rapidly shared with attack aircraft (B-52s in this case) through a joint system of ground data receiving stations, tactical ground forces, and key decision making personnel located in various locations in the theater of operations and across the globe. This is also a key indicator of the significance of multi-spectral sensors as the sandstorm would have blinded all other traditional optical reconnaissance methods. The technology used in this example is not new, but the manner in which this and future tactical engagements can be waged through the “fog of war” is indicative of the manner in which the US military must proceed to maintain the decisive edge.

Joint Surveillance Targeting Attack Radar System


JSTARS aircraft have an effective high resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar which can provide some target identification capability, the exact extent of which is assumed classified. Recent enhancements have shown a dramatic improvement in the resolution capability of this type of radar as can be seen in Figures 1 and 2. This sensor enhancement will no doubt increase the ability of JSTARS to Find, Fix, Track, Target Engage and Assess (F2T2EA) on the future battlefield. An example of how remote sensing assets such as JSTARS are integrated into the overall battle space can be seen in Figure 3. This figure also illustrates the concept of network centric warfare in the military transformation as information is not only obtained, but it is rapidly shared with other reconnaissance assets, command and control assets as well as tactical engagement assets.
E-8 JSTARS (Courtesy 116th ACW)

Current SAR Enhanced SAR
Figure 1-Current SAR (Courtesy 116th ACW) Figure 2-Enhnaced SAR (Courtesy 116th ACW)


Global Hawk

Global Hawk UAV Another combat proven ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance) system that has seen recent success in both Afghanistan and Iraq is the Global Hawk. This UAV operates at altitudes of over 60,000 ft (out of range for most surface to air missiles) and can provide persistent surveillance over a 40,000sq mile target area, loitering for more than 24 hours. The launch and recovery facility can be located up to 1,200 miles away from the intended target area and control facilities can be located just about anywhere in the world with the help of satellites and ground control stations. A typical mission profile can be seen in Figure 4.

Global Hawk Mission Profile
Figure 4-Global Hawk Mission Profile

Global Hawk carries onboard a complete suite of remote sensors including visible 0.4 - 0.8 μm, medium infrared 3.6 – 5.0 μm and x-band synthetic aperture radar for imaging and moving target indication, see Figure 5. The metadata that accompanies this imagery can be utilized for precision munitions targeting.

Global Hawk Systems
Figure 5-Global Hawk Sensor Systems

Precision Engagement=Force Multiplier

Figure 6 is an example (not necessarily from Global Hawk) of imagery that was utilized to precisely locate the GPS coordinates of a target. This precision strike minimized collateral damage in a residential area as well as incapacitated a key enemy communications target. This is just one example of the force multiplication effect that remote sensing assets can provide when the image data obtained is digitally orthorectified for targeting purposes. For example, the same strike in World War II to take out a similar target would most likely have required numerous aircraft to fly reconnaissance of the target area before the strike. Dozens of B-17 or B-29 bombers would have had to have been launched in order to ensure the successful destruction of such a high value target. Much collateral damage would have resulted, as often was the case, as unguided munitions impact residential areas. Additional strikes would most likely have been required to ensure the incapacitation of this target, placing even more friendly forces into harms way. Precision guided weapons such as the GPS guided JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) combined with stealth platforms such as the B-2 bombers dramatically decrease the risk and number of friendly forces required for a mission, dramatically decrease the incidents (unfortunately do not eliminate) of collateral damage and exponentially increase the probability of successfully destroying the target on the first try. However, precision attack munitions such as the JDAM are useless without accurate remote sensing platforms that can produce the digital orthoimages required for accurate targeting information.

JDAM-Precision Engagement
Figure 6-JDAM Precision Engagement

The imaging capabilities of the Global Hawk and other remote sensing assets is the cornerstone of the force multiplication afforded by effectively integrating remote sensing assets into the network centric warfare concept of military transformation. As response time decreases through network synergy, remote sensing assets will be more and more useful in close air support / interdiction missions against mobile targets and targets of opportunity in addition to previous roles of fixing and targeting strategic non-mobile targets such as buildings and structures. This means fewer aircraft are performing more of the missions than in previous conflicts.

Additionally, UAVs are also being used as launch platforms themselves, performing the detect and target roles as well as engage and assess. One successful example of this is the Predator UAV which has utilized laser guided Hellfire missiles to take on targets of opportunity in the Global War on Terrorism. The predator UAV in addition to its optical sensors has a laser designator to point out targets for other combat aircraft or for its own ordinance.

Into the Future & Back To The Past

High Altitude, Long Loiter Early military reconnaissance platforms, the forbearers of today’s high tech military sensor platforms were often simple hot air or helium balloons with cameras and / or observers. Indeed the first aerial photographs and hence the first true remote sensing from an aerial platform was accomplished by the Frenchman Gaspard Felix Tournachon in 1858 from a balloon. However, the next generation of ultra high tech military (and civilian) remote sensors may again be placed on balloons. The primary benefit these airships offer is persistent surveillance measured in terms of days, weeks and even months (station keeping) over a target area where aircraft and UAVs must eventually return to earth for refueling. In addition, they provide increased flexibility and lower cost than traditional space launched geosynchronous satellites. The US Joint Forces Command Joint Experimentation Directorate has sponsored this program under the name HALL, High Altitude, Long Loiter. These airships would operate between 60,000 and 200,000 ft where there is little to no other air traffic, above the jet stream with light winds and little effect from weather. In the simplest forms, these airships would be free floating for station keeping and more advanced designs would incorporate directional steering and / or thrust devices to maintain position over the target area. Position accuracy may be measured in hundreds of miles, but at these altitudes, the target area would be well within the possible field of view. These platforms would also provide for a wide variety of applications from remote sensors to communications links. However, as a sensor platform, these airships would be indispensable when fitted with mutli-spectral sensing devices. The ability to persistently monitor a position means that the enemy cannot simply wait until no one is looking to move or reposition assets. The enhanced change detection of this platform could significantly impact a commander’s ability to reduce the “fog of war” and shape the battlefield to their advantage.

Concluding Thoughts

With the integration of current high tech remote sensing platforms and the advent of future platforms, the transformation of the military to netcentric warfare doctrine, integrated at all levels, delivering synergistic combat firepower to the battlefield seems assured. Lifting the "fog of war” is dependent upon knowing exactly where the enemy is at all times and knowing exactly what they are up to. Remote sensing assets in the context of military transformation provide this advantage and the information needed to make timely decisions. This highlights the importance of the information age of warfare. It is just as important if not more so to obtain and secure information superiority prior to the onset of hostilities as it was to gain air superiority in previous conflicts. In one aspect aerospace dominance would include both complete air and information control of the battlefield since this is the medium in which many of our information assets operate.

However, the advent of widely available high altitude surface to air missiles, directed energy weapons and increased electronic countermeasures could threaten to shoot down, obscure from view or otherwise disable UAVs, HALL remotes sensing devices or even JSTARS aircraft. This revelation is not new as can be remembered when Gary Powers high altitude U-2 aircraft (previously thought untouchable) was shot down by a high altitude surface to air missile. Developing new technologies is critical to maintaining the US decisive war fighting capability edge. The essence of the military transformation itself should dictate and lead to redundant systems, protection capabilities and the development of a network centric war fighting doctrine that won’t crash when one component becomes disabled. Remote sensing applications will continuously refine both spatial and spectral resolution capabilities to ensure the enemy cannot make use if simple camouflaging techniques that render our efforts useless. However, in the end, the military principles of Sun Tzu and Carl Von Clauswitz among others of the ages will reaffirm the need to constantly re-evaluate and refine our current operational doctrine as the only constant throughout military history is change.


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