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General provides clarification on UAV use

4/25/2007 - WASHINGTON (AFNEWS) -- Recent discussion in hearings on Capital Hill, and elsewhere on an executive agency proposal to achieve greater efficiency in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) procurement is being confused with joint operational employment of those UAVs.

"These are two related, but distinctly separate issues," said Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance. The discussion has also illuminated a fundamental misunderstanding of Service roles and missions.

"UAV capability is not an extension of the ground force, it is an extension of the Joint force; the Air Force provides the expertise in the aerial domain, as the ground forces do on land." said General Deptula.

According to DoD Directive 5100.1,"Functions of the Department of Defense and Its Major Components," one of the USAF primary functions is to "furnish aerial imagery."

"The last thing we need is to turn back the clock on Goldwater-Nichols reforms by allowing Services to develop redundant and wasteful crossover capabilities, thereby rejecting the premise of Joint warfighting," General Deptula said.

General Deptula stated that the Air Force agrees that demand for UAVs exceeds supply and will continue to exceed it--even after all the Services have built all their programmed UAVs.

"This only reinforces the notion that the best possible way to get ISR from these limited UAVs to our joint warriors on the ground is to allocate them as directed by the Joint Force Commander," said General Deptula.

He went on to use an analogy of a city consisting of 50 blocks, where the mayor owns five fire trucks.

"If the mayor designated one truck to one block, those five fire trucks would be assigned to only five blocks--that's the Army approach. If a fire broke out in a block outside those five, no fire truck would respond. The joint approach that the Air Force supports would leave it up to the mayor--or Joint Force Commander--to allocate the five fire trucks based on which blocks needed them most," he said. "That is the role the joint force commander delegates to the joint force air component commander."

Today, every operationally designated medium- and high-altitude UAV in the Air Force is assigned to Central Command. The Air Force provided Predators are routinely tasked to support tactical operations for ground forces.

"There are no such things as Air Force targets," said the General. "There are only targets that support the joint campaign."

The General went on to explain with an example, "When a sniper was pinning down Marine ground forces in Iraq, a Predator UAV flown by the Air Force from Nevada, spotted and identified the insurgent. The Predator UAV delivered video of the sniper's location directly to a Marine controller in the fight, and he used that video to direct a Navy F/A-18 into the vicinity. Then the Navy jets' laser bombs were guided to the enemy position by the Predator UAV laser designation of the target, eliminating the sniper. This engagement took less than 2 minutes."

"That is what joint warfare is all about," said General Deptula.

"The Air Force proposal on UAVs is all about getting the most out of our ISR resources to increase this kind of capability for America's sons and daughters on the ground, at sea, and in the air, while promoting service interdependency, and the wisest use of American's tax dollars."

In March, Air Force Chief of Staff, T. Michael Moseley submitted a proposal to the other Service chiefs and Combatant Commanders that the Air Force be named executive agent for medium- and high-altitude UAVs to achieve greater efficiency in the acquisitions process of these systems.



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