In the summer of 2004, I was flying F/A-18C “Hornets” off the USS John F. Kennedy in the northern Persian Gulf supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom. Early on during the deployment, I distinctly remember sitting in the VFA-83 ready room with my squadron mates staring for hours on end at the video feed we were receiving from a Predator UAV (unmanned airborne vehicle). Although we were certainly aware at the time of UAVs and their somewhat nascent capabilities, we were in awe at the prospect of what could be in the very near future, i.e. how we could utilize UAVs on our flights later that same day. Such was the vision that we, along with myriad others in the defense world, had for UAVs and all things unmanned.
Unmanned systems are but a part of the much larger ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) world. The memory I have of the Predator video is one in a series that, for me, highlight the importance and explosive growth of ISR. There remains little doubt that the US and other nations will continue to invest in this area over the foreseeable future and beyond.
That being said, what I’d like to do in this blog is to offer up several topics that fall under the ISR umbrella and promote discussion of where we are today, where we might want to go and how we plan to get there. As with any useful dialogue, I will rely on the differing points of view of those who want to participate to help shape the dialogue and ascertain the answers to our questions.
There are a multitude of roadmaps we could use to get us started. I think it makes sense to start with UAVs, since it seems to be at the forefront of many peoples’ minds. From there, perhaps, we could broaden the conversation to unmanned systems, in general. It may make sense to then discuss how unmanned systems fit into the much larger ISR world, and then talk about the latest ISR technologies and what the long-term trends and implications look like.
I’m incredibly excited to begin this blog and I look forward to learning much more about the present and future state of ISR through our conversations.