SENIOR BLADE is one of nine IMINT ground and afloat stations within the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Program (DARO) that have been developed or fielded independently and prior to the advent of CIGSS. SENIOR BLADE provides a processing/exploitation capability for the U-2R SENIOR YEAR Electro-Optical (E/O) sensor [SYERS].
The SENIOR BLADE van on the ground controls the electro-optical sensor and receives, processes, exploits, and reports digital imagery collected to theater commanders and national authorities. SYERS "projects" a digital "picture," onto a computer screen in the ground station. If the sensor is in "line-of-sight" (about 220 miles) of the ground station, the aircraft is "on-tether" and relays the imagery continuously, near-real-time. If the aircraft is beyond the range of the ground station, the SYERS stores the information then relays it when the U-2 is again within range. Intelligence personnel in the SENIOR BLADE van identify objects from the imagery and pass on the coordinates and other data to theater commanders.
The SENIOR BLADE van arrived in Saudi Arabia on 13 August 1990. Because of Taif's distance from Iraq, the BLADE van deployed to Riyadh to give the SYERS maximum time "on-tether" while patrolling along the Saudi-Iraqi border. After Desert Storm began and the U-2s crossed the border into Iraq, a second SENIOR BLADE van (dubbed Son-of-Blade) deployed to King Khalid Military City, Saudi Arabia nearer the border. This allowed the SYERS to cover nearly all of southern Iraq while remaining on-tether.
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