(MENAFN- Asia Times) The US plans to shift a significant portion of its intelligence-gathering technology from planes to satellites, capitalizing on the strategic advantages of space-based assets but coming up against significant political, operational, and military challenges.
This month, Defense One reported that the Pentagon is considering moving intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities from aircraft to less vulnerable spacecraft, according to General Mark Kelly, the head of Air Combat Command. The source says the US Air Force's intelligence planes perform various missions, including intercepting enemy signals, tracking missiles, and tracking ground movements.
It notes that planes are expensive to fly, vulnerable to long-range missiles, and require large support crews at forward operating bases – but a high-flying satellite doesn't need these resources.
Defense One says the USAF is replacing some older planes with newer, more modern aircraft while purchasing hundreds of small satellites for missile tracking, communication and other military functions to augment larger, more expensive ones.
The source quotes Ed Zoiss, president of L3Harris Technologies' Space & Airborne Systems segment, as saying that moving intelligence sensors from planes to satellites is not difficult and could result in the military getting more modern technology faster than if the same sensors were installed on a plane.
Defense One notes that adding a new sensor to an intelligence plane is typically done during a block upgrade, which takes about six years, compared with putting a sensor into space, which can be done in under three years. It also says the Pentagon's Space Development Agency will launch three new constellations over the next six years, and satellites could connect directly to tactical aircraft, sharing intelligence.
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