Monday, November 28, 2011

The fog of war: Airstrikes on Pakistan border underscore ISR requirements

Following the U.S.-led NATO airstrikes on the Afghan-Pakistan border that killed 24 troops in the early hours of Saturday morning, both sides have been quick to voice their judgments as tension continues to fray between the U.S. and Pakistan.
Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of the Pakistan Army Staff, said the attacks were “unprovoked” and that he “strongly condemned NATO/ISAF’s blatant and unacceptable act,” in an Army Inter Services press release.
The Pakistan government has called for "strong and urgent action" against the unprovoked aggression.
In a joint press release Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered their condolences to those that lost their lives and were “closely monitoring” the situation.
“Both offer their deepest condolences for the loss of life and support fully NATO's intention to investigate immediately,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby.
The statement from Clinton and Panetta went on to underscore “the importance of the U.S.-Pakistani partnership, which serves the mutual interests of our people.”
Unsurprisingly the Pakistan Foreign Office has hit back with hardy rhetoric. In a statement it described the attacks as "totally unacceptable, constituted a grave infringement of Pakistan's sovereignty, were violative of international law and a serious transgression of the oft conveyed red lines and could have serious repercussions on Pakistan-U.S./NATO/ISAF cooperation."
The “serious repercussions” alluded to here are perhaps the clearest cause for concern for the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations since Osama Bin Laden was identified and killed by U.S. special forces inside Pakistan in May.
Pakistan has already countered the attack by cutting off key logistic supply lines for NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Airborne ISR: Mission-critical requirements highlighted

The fog of war always clouds the distinction between military intent and operational precision. Reports from some Afghan officials indicate the air strikes were in retaliation to incoming fire from Pakistan, a claim that has been robustly denied by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s government.
As the fog begins to clear, more (accurate) details will inevitably surface, but the incident highlights the continued requirement for superior airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) technologies. While the fallout of this politically sensitive airstrike lingers, the military need for absolute operational clarity during missions is critical.
The role of ISR in airborne operations is rapidly evolving and becoming an increasingly mission-critical component for the armed forces as it looks to improve interoperability and situational awareness.
Speaking to Defence IQ last week, Saab’s Michael Olofsson, Director, Sales & Marketing for Rapid 3D Mapping, discussed the company’s mapping technology and how it can be beneficial for military ISR applications.
Rapid 3D Mapping, which is accurate to within 30 cm from 3D data captured at an altitude of 600 m, creates “photo-realistic and accurate geo-referenced 3D maps from data collected from airborne sensors such as aircraft, helicopters, UAV's and even satellites,” Olofsson explained in an email interview. Think Google Maps, except it’s interactive, explorable in 3-dimensions, and designed with in-built features to aid the military in live operations.
“Our main focus right now is military use … applications are typically simulation and training, situational awareness … mission planning (and) target acquisition”
The technology will have “huge benefits for ISR users” as it gives commanders on the ground and in the air an accurate view and understanding of the landscape before any forces are sent in. In one example of the technology’s capabilities, Olofsson said that snipers can be digitally placed into an environment anywhere in the world and the exact line-of-sight from those coordinates can be calculated. Clearly this data would be invaluable for certain military operations as it allows a mission to be accurately planned while also offering significant risk reduction benefits.
If tensions in the region continue to escalate the requirement for airborne ISR technology will inevitably intensify as situational awareness becomes an increasingly important factor in warfighting capabilities.

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