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Subject:      Re: How prompt should [spysat] BDA be?
From:         thomsona@netcom.com (Allen Thomson)
Date:         1996/09/17
Message-Id:   <thomsonaDxvy9J.sC@netcom.com>
Newsgroups:   rec.aviation.military,sci.military.naval,sci.space.policy

In article <51kqmg$gbu@news.asu.edu> aufsj@imap2.asu.edu writes:
>Allen Thomson (thomsona@netcom.com) wrote:
>:    A question has come up here about how soon after an attack like the 
>: first one in Desert Strike the US likes to get BDA imagery.  Basically 
>: the issue is whether significant effort is made to get pictures promptly 
>: (minutes to tens of minutes) after the attack. I'd assume the answer might 
>: be different for SAR, which can see through post-attack dust and smoke than 
>: for optical systems, which can't.
>:    If anyone has any real but unclassified information which bears on this
>: question,  I'd appreciate seeing it.
>   Well, everyone *likes* it immediately and with certainty 
>(like all intelligence).  But at what expense, and at what 
>priority?  That is a very controversial matter. 
[various acts of excision committed on subsequent quoted text]
>   Having said that, I will toss out the "It depends" caveat.  
>In the case of a preplanned strike modern technology/ 
>capabilities virtually always allow for the planning of an 
>overlap of the combat and a coverage window. This is typical 
>because most such strikes are technology demonstrators and 
>provide data for statistical studies (especially if it works!).  
   This is really the essence of the present question.  If you 
look at the table of coverage by putative optical/IR and radar 
reconnaissance satellites at the end of this message, you can 
see that spysat BDA after the two Desert Strike attacks wasn't 
"prompt" on the timescale of minutes to tens of minutes.  Indeed, 
the first pass was about an hour and half after the missiles 
hit.  
   One school in the discussion holds that the lack of morning 
coverage and the age of the radar satellites may indicate that 
the system is somewhat broken (or that the system is more 
extensive than generally recognized).  The other school holds 
that reasonable explanations can be found for the 
constellation's configuration and that the observed interval 
between strike and BDA is normal, acceptable, and not indicative 
of anything out of the ordinary.  A third possibility is, of 
course, that there were aircraft or UAVs around to provide 
"prompt" BDA, with the satellites filling in the gaps later.  
(Disclosure of bias: I tend to the "this looks strange" side, 
but the "this looks not unreasonable" party has good arguments 
too.  Hence the call for facts and insight concerning real-
world BDA practices.) 
>   If a target is considered important enough to hit again if it 
>isn't destroyed the first time, and is protected well enough to 
>make losses a good possibility, then BDA is considered important 
>because it will allow commanders to avoid risking a re-strike.  
>Really important targets usually merit their own tasked aircraft 
>(if manned aircraft are used) to do the BDA.  If aircraft are 
>not available, however, national systems will usually give such 
>targets a high priority. 
   Yes, it's what this would have meant in the Desert Strike 
context that's of interest.  Would one have expected prompt 
aircraft coverage, keeping in mind that some of the targets were 
SAM sites and might not have been destroyed?  Or, if aircraft 
were not used, would the strike have been expected to be timed 
closer to the time of good satellite radar and optical/IR 
coverage (i.e., noon and after)? 
>   In less time-critical cases BDA tasking is done on an as 
>available basis.  Modern air campaigns (our kind) run on 
>"cycles" and the length of a cycle will determine to a large 
>extent how routine BDA is tasked.  In the case of a "lengthy" 
>(several day) systematic attack, BDA usually becomes much less 
>of a factor. 
   Desert Strike I and II were on a short cycle -- ca. twenty 
hours between them.  What does this imply about BDA 
requirements? 
>   Imagery tasking is *fairly* straightforward.  Coverage times 
>for national systems are usually not adjustable, and in this day 
>and age it is not a matter of collecting enough data, but rather 
>analyzing it.
   Presumably planning for at least the first strike included 
consideration of BDA collection and analysis.  Your observation 
that the LEO spysats can't be maneuvered radically in short 
periods of time -- the radar satellites apparently not at all, 
the optical ones only at the expense of considerable reduction 
in available fuel -- is important.  If there is to be any 
coordination between strike and overpass, it's the strike that 
has to be adjusted to the satellites' schedule, rather than 
vice-versa.  This is thesis of a (profoundly important, IMHO) 
paper in the Russian General Staff journal "Military Thought" in 
October 1992.
   Here's a table of overflights of Iraq during Desert Strike I 
and II.  USA 86 and USA 116 are in orbits characteristic of 
optical/IR systems, the Lacrosses are believed on the basis of 
RUMINT to be synthetic aperture radar imagers (AFAIK, there 
aren't any other good SAR candidates among the classified LEO 
satellites). 
                             TRAKSAT  Version 2.80
                              Analytical Solution
                      Tracking Station: AN NASIRIYAH, IRAQ
                       [ Line Of Sight (LOS) Visibility ]
                            Input File:  SPYSAT.TXT
            Twenty degree horizon mask assumed for radar satellites; 
                         zero degrees for optical/IR
 Satellite    UTC     Time     Local   Time      Azimuth  Max  Min    Duration
              Date    HR:MN:SC Date    HR:MN:SC           Ele  Range  HR:MN:SC
                                   TWILIGHT/NIGHT
 Lacrosse 1   01Sep96 16:53:04 01Sep96 20:53:04  NW TO SE  78    676  00:13:04 
 USA 86       01Sep96 20:22:39 02Sep96 00:22:39  SE TO N   18   1055  00:08:39 
 Lacrosse 2   01Sep96 21:16:40 02Sep96 01:16:40  N  TO SE  63    732  00:13:40 
 USA 116      01Sep96 21:48:45 02Sep96 01:48:45  S  TO NW  27    552  00:07:45 
 USA 86       01Sep96 22:01:27 02Sep96 02:01:27  SW TO NW   9   1468  00:07:27 
------------------------FIRST STRIKE ~ 09:30 LOCAL----------------------------
                                       DAYTIME
 Lacrosse 1   02Sep96 07:04:49 02Sep96 11:04:49  S  TO NE  32   1110  00:13:49 
 USA 116      02Sep96 08:06:53 02Sep96 12:06:53  NE TO SE   3   3194  00:07:53 
 USA 86       02Sep96 08:26:11 02Sep96 12:26:11  NE TO SE  18   2061  00:14:11 
 Lacrosse 1   02Sep96 08:46:26 02Sep96 12:46:26  SW TO NE  27   1240  00:12:26 
 USA 116      02Sep96 09:39:36 02Sep96 13:39:36  N  TO S   53   1091  00:15:36 
 USA 86       02Sep96 10:03:17 02Sep96 14:03:17  N  TO SW  52   1121  00:15:17 
 USA 116      02Sep96 11:16:43 02Sep96 15:16:43  N  TO SW  18   1977  00:13:43 
 Lacrosse 2   02Sep96 11:29:39 02Sep96 15:29:39  SW TO N   58    776  00:13:39 
 USA 86       02Sep96 11:44:05 02Sep96 15:44:05  NW TO W    3   3070  00:07:05 
                                   TWILIGHT/NIGHT
 Lacrosse 1   02Sep96 15:41:48 02Sep96 19:41:48  NW TO SE  26   1262  00:12:48 
 Lacrosse 1   02Sep96 17:23:17 02Sep96 21:23:17  NW TO S   33   1079  00:13:17 
 USA 86       02Sep96 19:33:20 02Sep96 23:33:20  E  TO NE   1   2229  00:03:20 
 USA 116      02Sep96 20:35:54 03Sep96 00:35:54  SE TO N    6   1312  00:05:54 
 USA 86       02Sep96 21:07:15 03Sep96 01:07:15  S  TO N   73    441  00:10:15 
 Lacrosse 2   02Sep96 21:48:55 03Sep96 01:48:55  NW TO S   38   1010  00:13:55 
 USA 116      02Sep96 22:11:50 03Sep96 02:11:50  SW TO NW  10   1065  00:06:50 
 ----------------------SECOND STRIKE ~ 05:30 LOCAL-----------------------------
                                       DAYTIME
 Lacrosse 1   03Sep96 07:34:14 03Sep96 11:34:14  SW TO NE  81    670  00:13:14 
 USA 86       03Sep96 07:37:01 03Sep96 11:37:01  NE TO E    2   3302  00:06:01 
 USA 116      03Sep96 08:27:35 03Sep96 12:27:35  NE TO SE   9   2652  00:11:35 
 USA 86       03Sep96 09:10:45 03Sep96 13:10:45  N  TO S   50   1145  00:16:45 
 USA 116      03Sep96 10:02:02 03Sep96 14:02:02  N  TO S   87    905  00:16:02 
 Lacrosse 2   03Sep96 10:21:52 03Sep96 14:21:52  S  TO NE  33   1077  00:13:52 
 USA 86       03Sep96 10:49:17 03Sep96 14:49:17  N  TO SW  19   1969  00:13:17 
 USA 116      03Sep96 11:39:55 03Sep96 15:39:55  N  TO SW  10   2458  00:11:55 
                                   TWILIGHT/NIGHT
 Lacrosse 1   03Sep96 16:11:48 03Sep96 20:11:48  NW TO SE  73    681  00:13:48 
 USA 86       03Sep96 20:15:35 04Sep96 00:15:35  SE TO N   15   1211  00:08:35 
 Lacrosse 2   03Sep96 20:40:37 04Sep96 00:40:37  N  TO SE  51    813  00:13:37 
 USA 116      03Sep96 20:57:23 04Sep96 00:57:23  SE TO N   17    810  00:07:23 
 USA 86       03Sep96 21:53:35 04Sep96 01:53:35  SW TO NW  12   1311  00:08:35 
 USA 116      03Sep96 22:35:32 04Sep96 02:35:32  SW TO NW   3   1605  00:04:32 



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