Creek Sand is a manned airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform, along with an associated intelligence fusion cell, designed to address emerging theater collection requirements and command strategy to build partner nation capacity. The Creek Sand system is capable of gathering various types of intelligence. The system is designed for persistent surveillance.
It is presumed from information known about the related Tusker Sand system that the "Sand" portion of the code name refers to the system in question, while the "Creek" portion refers to the targeted operational area. Tusker refers to East Africa, while Creek presumably refers to West Africa. DMS' Code Name Directory, Twelfth Edition, published in 1983 said that the "Creek" prefix was a permanent US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) first word, and included an entry for Creek Sand, referring to "Air Force individual technical electronic systems." It was unclear if that Creek Sand and this program were related in any way. It appeared that there had been some code word shifting with the creation of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008. Previously US European Command (EUCOM) had been responsible for the bulk of US operations in Africa.
On 17 May 2010, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced a presolicitation for Africa Command ISR Initiative Operations (Aii Ops) contract. The Creek Sand program was a component of this larger initiative. The proposed Creek Sand team would consist of at least 15 personnel. The sensor package would include electro-optical and infrared full motion video components, laser range finder, as well as, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), Hyperspectral (HSI), Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR), and other sensors as appropriate. The system was to be mounted on a manned aircraft, and the contract stated that AFRICOM preferred the Pilatus PC-12/47 aircraft. The platform would be contractor-owned/contractor operated. A signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability was also reportedly added to the system.
On 25 June 2010, the Aii Ops contract was delayed indefinitely. Creek Sand continued as a separate program. Though the system was related to the Tusker Sand system, which utilized a contractor-owned/contractor-operated Beechcraft King Air aircraft (C-12 equivalent), reports suggested that the AFRICOM preferred Pilatus PC-12 aircraft was provided by the selected contractor in the Creek Sand program. Other similar programs utilized various types of aircraft, so it is possible that more than one type was in use.
Creek Sand was also reported to have been paired with existing efforts already supporting Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara, which had begun under the direction of elements of EUCOM, before being passed to AFRICOM. The Aii Ops contract did not require data transfer or ground control/intelligence fusion services for the Creek Sand program, likely because of the presence of an existing operation, codenamed Aztec Archer. In 2008, the Advanced Technical Intelligence Association awarded a Technical Intelligence Collaboration Award to the "Creek Sand/Aztec Archer Team" for having "significantly contributed to regional security and stability in the Western Sahara of Africa by providing actionable, fused intelligence derived from multiple agencies within the Intelligence Community to the United States" to partners of Trans Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership (TSCTP) and Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara. A Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment (JSOAD) was present in Burkina Faso, widely reported to be the location of the primary Creek Sand aircraft, from at least 2009 onward, in addition to the Aztec Archer intelligence fusion cell. From that location the aircraft would likely operate over what had been referred to as the "ungoverned spaces" in the Sahel or Trans Sahara region of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom - Trans Sahara.
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