The audacity of Gorgon Stare

The Washington Post yesterday morning reported that the US Air Force has come within two months of fielding Gorgon Stare, which is sort of like the “Jon & Kate Plus 8” of recce pods.

Gorgon Stare multiplies the video cameras flown on a single MQ-9 from one to at least 10. Ground processing can split up the 10 camera feeds into 50 different video tracks initially, and 65 tracks when increment 2 arrives in about 18 months.

I thought the Post did a good job on the story, although I’d point out that a recce pod is only any good as long as the weather stays clear and the insurgents do their dirty work in the open.

The story also reminded me how far the US Air Force has come in less than three years. In April 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates publicly criticized two USAF officials — Michael Wynne and Gen T. Michael Moseley, whom he would later fire — for moving too slowly to support airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) needs in Afghanistan.

After 2004, the USAF leadership had stood by as the US Army fielded Constant Hawk and the Marine Corps deployed Angel Fire. It wasn’t until May 2008 that the USAF hastily constructed a strategy. Gorgon Stare and the MC-12 Liberty programs quickly emerged, as well as a plan to hire 2,500 intelligence analysts to handle the influx of new data.

It was massive philosophical shift form the USAF’s intelligence community. Gorgon Stare, in particular, challenges an analytical system already overloaded by UAVs offering only a single video feed. Former Lt Gen Dave Deputula, who recently retired, addressed this question memorably on 27 April last year at an IDGA UAV summit. After describing Gorgon Stare to the audience, Deptula was asked by a conference attendee if the USAF also planned to multiply the number of intelligence analysts by 10 to support the system.

This is what Deptula said in reply:

“You don’t have to analyze everything that comes off of thesystem. Just giving information to folks who in the past didn’t have access toit is enough. You know? I know you hard core intel people in here are going,’No, no. We’ve got to record it, and analyze it and keep it for forensic analysislater on. OK, fine. But we shouldn’t be afraid to not analyze the bejeezus outof everything. It’s the situational awareness improvement that I think is thebenefit of technologies like Gorgon Stare.”

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One Response to The audacity of Gorgon Stare

  1. John 5 January, 2011 at 10:08 pm #

    “2,500 intelligence analysts” and they only have two cameras in the air for the next 18 months?

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