The U.S. Air Force is emerging from almost 13 years of conflict in the Middle East with a different perspective on its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Lessons learned from those battlefields are leading to new directions that will entail abandoning traditional approaches and methods.
Recent operations have demonstrated the importance of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to coalition partners. As the missions wind down, officials in charge of such activities are focusing on a reset, determining what adjustments to make to keep the capabilities relevant moving forward. The Air Force has no plans to stop providing services across the military, though what that means with a smaller force in different environments remains to be seen.
Throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, capabilities from various sensors became available at continually lower echelons even as support remained intact to the highest levels within the United States. Officials in the ISR community have learned to better integrate platforms, sensors, the network and the enterprise. The advent of the Joint Information Environment encompasses part of that effort, as the military creates a single, secure information-sharing environment across its branches.
Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan, USAF, commander, Air Force ISR Agency, says the war in Afghanistan will be remembered as an ISR war as much as anything else. Incredible ISR capabilities were fielded to Iraq and Afghanistan during the past 12 to 13 years, but not all of them will transfer to the military of the future. Others will be revamped for a different fight. Some capabilities coming out of Afghanistan, for example, will be as important in new locations, but for different reasons, Gen. Shanahan states.