Air Forces All-Seeing Eye Flops Vision Test
By David Axe and Noah Shachtman | Wired.com
Its the one of the most revolutionary and one of the most chilling weapons to come out of Americas decade of conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gorgon Stare, a new all-seeing camera system for aerial drones, is supposed to boost U.S. surveillance by an order of magnitude, by installing a hive of nine or more cameras under the wing of an Air Force Reaper drone. Gorgon Stare-equipped Reapers are meant to watch over a city-size area, while also simultaneously sending video feeds to dozens of customers on the ground.
Theres just one problem. Gorgon Stare doesnt work as promised, at least according to the Air Force squadron whose job it is to test the new system.
In a draft report dated Dec. 30 and obtained by rogue military analyst Winslow Wheeler, the 53rd Wing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida declared Gorgon Stare not operationally effective and not operationally suitable. Alleged problems include poor-quality video, glitches in the process for downloading video streams, and a small problem of the drone blinding itself with a laser.
This is bad. Real bad. The Air Force is counting on Gorgon Stare to help its squadrons in Afghanistan meet insatiable demand for overhead full-motion video.
Despite steadily adding drones there are now more than 50 three-bot orbits deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan the supply is never adequate. Its like crack, and everyone wants more, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Mangum said of drone-supplied video.
Equipping a portion of its drone fleet with Gorgon Stare would be like adding hundreds of new drones, from the perspective of the soldier on the ground. Now, the Air Force might not get that boost.
A standard drone spycam takes a soda straw view of whats beneath, focusing on a lone vehicle or a single home at a time. Gorgon Stare, on the other hand, uses a bundle of cameras, each one shooting at a very slow rate and at a slightly different angle. That allows the sensor to watch over a much larger area at once: about 36 square miles or so, according to some estimates.
Gorgon Stare will be looking at a whole city, Air Force intelligence chief Maj. Gen. James Poss recently told The Washington Post. We can see everything.
But that view might not be so clear. The 53rd Wing found 13 serious deficiencies in the system. To carry the Gorgon Stare pod plus the required processing pod, Reapers have to be stripped of other sensors and weapons and structurally reinforced. The layout of the underwing pod puts it in the way of the Reapers nose-mounted ranging laser, meaning Reaper remote pilots could accidentally lase and blind their own cameras.
Even when working correctly, the Gorgon Stares cameras are marginally sufficient to track vehicles but not sufficient to track dismounts [people], the testers wrote. In general, IR [infrared] imagery quality is poor, which yields marginal mission capability at night.
Plus, soldiers on the ground could have a hard time capturing the Gorgon Stares video feed. Even if they do, a glitch in the system means imagery is subject to gaps between stitching areas [where the camera images meet], which manifests itself as a large black triangle moving throughout the image.
Gorgon Stare cannot reliably find and track human targets; it has additional problems for moving targets, and the random location inaccuracy makes the system virtually unusable for prosecuting even stationary targets, Wheeler summed up in an e-mail.
Gorgon Stare and other wide-area airborne surveillance (WAAS) systems came out of an Iraq-war imperative to track car bombs across an entire city. Spycams might not be able to prevent such attacks. But if a whole town could be surveilled at once, the car bombs could be traced back to their points of origin.
As the insurgency evolved, and the Afghanistan conflict heated up, the need for WAAS changed. Instead of spotting vehicles after the fact, the military wanted WAAS to find individual, dismounted attackers in real time.
But with a resolution at least twice as bad as standard drone cameras and a frame rate of just 2 per second, compared to 30 in standard-issue spycams tracking individual militants might be too tough a mission for a WAAS system. If somebody said Gorgon Stare could spot dismounts, they probably oversold it, says a source familiar with the programs. It was not designed to do that.
The 53rd Wing recommended more testing and development before Gorgon Stare gets installed on Reapers in Afghanistan, something that is supposed to happen this winter.
Weve asked the Air Force to respond to this report. Well let you know what they say.
Now, to be fair, tests are designed to uncover problems, not just rubber-stamp things that already work fine. And military testers are paid to be skeptics and trained to find even the tiniest glitch in new weapons.
That can result in unfair assessments of urgently needed weapons and sometimes leads to clashes between testers and the broader Pentagon establishment. For example, testers for years declared the Navys EA-18G radar-jamming plane not operationally suitable, but the Pentagon pressed ahead with and even expanded plans to field the jet.
Similar assessments were made of the now-iconic Predator drone back in October 2001, when the testers found it to be not operationally effective or suitable. It wasnt long before the robotic spy plane was making important contributions to the war in Afghanistan.
The 53rd Wings assessment of Gorgon Stare could be an example of over-stringent testers striving for unnecessarily lofty benchmarks. Or the Air Force testers are correct, and the Pentagons revolutionary all-seeing eye really is blurry and half-blind.
Update 7:11pm: Gorgon Stare is in the first increment of a multi-increment program, and the second increment will increase the warfighters capabilities by range and resolution, Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Johnson says in a statement, released moments ago.
The document leaked was a draft memo that was later revised in January.
The January memo includes three issues that we have identified and have fixes in place. The first was addressing critical Technical Order shortfalls; the second was Gorgon Stare Ground Station image and grid coordinate generation; and the third was Remote Video Terminal compatibility. Were working all three issues and do not believe they will affect the deployment schedule.
Air Force leadership understands the importance of providing quick, timely and actionable ISR for the field. Gorgon Stare will not be fielded until the theater commander accepts it.
The Air Force takes its responsibility seriously because lives depend on the quality of the intelligence products that are produced.
Article from: wired.com
New Reaper sensors offer a bigger picture
US drones kill 938 Pakistanis in 2010
Pakistan drone victim demands damages from CIA
US drone "kills eight Germans" in Pakistan amid terror plot fears
60 Dead As Helos, Drones Strike In Pakistan (But Dont Call It A War)
Book: CIA Director Admitted US Drone Strikes Killed American Citizens
US Dept. of Defense posts YouTube drone porn (Video)
Gorgon - wikipedia
Medusa and Gorgons
"Oculus" All Seeing Eye Under WTC, 1998
The Council of the European Union goes for the All Seeing Eye Logo
Symbolism Lesson 1: The All Seeing Eye (Video)
Latest News from our Front Page
Minister of Migration attacked by asylum seeker with fire extinguisher
Swedenâs Minister of Justice & Migration also known as Morgan âonly 1%â Johansson, has been attacked with a fire extinguisher when he visited an asylum home for future Swedes.
Regional newspaper, Kristiandstadsbladet reported that a man who had been living at the home for a couple of weeks grabbed a fire extinguisher and sprayed foam all over the minister who didnât ...
Hollywood agents: Difficult for white actors to find work now that shows required âto go ethnicâ
According to an article by Nellie Andreeva published yesterday at Deadline Hollywood, the television landscape has shifted so much this season that white actors are finding it increasingly difficult to find roles.
In addition to new hit shows with mostly minority casts â Black-ish, Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, and How to Get Away with Murder â shows that were originally ...
Congratulations Pussy Porters!
Mural paid for by the government, decorates a Swedish school.
On International Womenâs day Julia Caesar published this chronicle in Swedish on Snaphanen which Iâve translated but prior to reading it Iâd like to provide you with some background information on certain terms which are incomprehensible to non-Swedes.
First and foremost âpussy porterâ and âpenis porterâ are terms that third-wave feminists in ...
Germanwings co-pilot appears to have crashed plane deliberately â prosecutor
The Germanwings co-pilot seemed to have crashed the plane deliberately, killing 150 people on board. The co-pilot wouldnât let the captain inside the cabin, with the âintension to destroyâ the jet, the French prosecutor said at a press conference.
Follow RTâs live updates on investigation into Germanwings plane crash
The Germanwings co-pilot was identified as Andreas Lubitz.
The captain was between 30 ...
Sweden adds gender-neutral pronoun to dictionary
The official dictionary of the Swedish language will introduce a gender-neutral pronoun in April, editors at the Swedish Academy have announced.
âHenâ will be added to âhanâ (he) and âhonâ (she) as one of 13,000 new words in the latest edition of the Swedish Academyâs SAOL.
The pronoun is used to refer to a person without revealing their gender â either because ...
|More News » |