of requesting national-level imagery to support their operations.xxvi What is more, national level imagery assets were often proved unreliable because of challenges posed by inclement weather and cloud cover. Instead Commanders relied heavily on time-sensitive tactical imagery platforms such as the OV-1D and the RF-4C to meet their emerging operational requirements. Unfortunately, these platforms relied on Vietnam era technology, resulting in considerable film processing lag, providing sub-optimal support to commanders with urgent operational requirements for imagery.xxvii While these legacy platforms proved themselves marginally reliable, they were retired in the wake of the Gulf War.
The Gulf War set the conditions to accelerate the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) program across the Department of Defense. “During the Gulf War, the Navy successfully used a Vietnam-era drone called the Pioneer to help direct gunfire from its battleships.”xxviii Because of this and other UAV success stories, the U.S. military concluded that the time was right to begin actively thinking about aggressively pursuing its newly fielded UAV capability. Widely recognized as the way ahead, UAVs represented a quantum leap in organic imagery collection capability for the force. What is more, UAVs became attractive because they did not place a pilot’s life in danger and they are far more cost effective than manned aircraft. Albeit limited, the UAVs employed in the Gulf War were extremely successful and paved the way for today’s family of UAVs.xxix
Broad Area Search/Surveillance Coverage
Because of its sheer size, Southwest Asia was a challenging geographic area to image, requiring a great deal of wide area swath coverage. Having retired the SR-71, the U.S. had no air-breathing imagery collection platforms to fulfill the critical wide area swath imagery mission during the Gulf War. Moreover, the only non air-breather capable of performing the wide area swath imagery collection mission was LandSat.xxx Unfortunately, LandSat was simply not an effective intelligence collection platform. On a more positive note, the Gulf War ushered in the introduction of a new platform called the Joint Surveillance Target and Attack Radar System (JSTARS) and its associated ground receiver systems.xxxi Although in its infancy, the JSTARS platform was capable of performing limited wide area surveillance missions and proved effective at finding large concentrations of Iraqi troops, especially when these formations were on the move.xxxii Indeed, the Gulf War served as a reminder that the U.S. intelligence community needed to revive the wide area swath imagery collection capability to reverse our extant shortcoming, both air-breathers and non air-breathers.