View Full Version : UK: UAVs and ISTAR Capabilities

08-06-2008, 08:02 PM
UK House of Commons Defence Committee, 5 Aug 08:

The contribution of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to ISTAR capability (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmdfence/535/535.pdf)

Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) is a key military capability and is fundamental to Network Enabled Capability (NEC (http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDefence/WhatWeDo/ScienceandTechnology/NEC/)). Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have emerged as an important means of collecting ISTAR information. The capabilities of UAVs have increased significantly in recent years and the pace of change is likely to increase in line with technological advances. The United States has made substantial investment in UAV technology. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was perhaps slow to appreciate the potential of UAVs, but now recognises the important contribution they can make.

The MoD has acquired UAVs for current operations as Urgent Operational Requirements. The acquisition of UAVs such as Reaper (http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=6405) and Hermes 450 (http://www.elbitsystems.com/lobmainpage.asp?id=161) are providing our Armed Forces with “battle winning capabilities”, and are proving effective in the counter-insurgency style of operations which they face in Iraq and Afghanistan. In addition to collecting ISTAR information, a UK Reaper UAV has fired its weapon system in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan.

The MoD is acquiring the Watchkeeper UAV (http://www.army-technology.com/projects/watchkeeper/) system which should provide significant capability improvements. The programme is currently forecast to be delivered within the approved cost and to the planned in-service date of 2010.

There are a wide range of challenges, some of which are international or crossdepartmental, which have to be addressed in order to exploit fully the benefits offered by UAVs. Key challenges include bandwidth—which is under increased pressure from the increasing amounts of ISTAR information being collected and disseminated—and issues relating to airspace and air traffic control. The MoD is seeking to identify solutions to these challenges, but must ensure that the impetus is maintained.

At the start of 2008 the Army had a 48% deficit in UAV operators, although the MoD says that the deficit has had no impact on operational theatres. UAVs are collecting increasing amounts of imagery, in particular through the use of Full Motion Video. To optimise the value of the imagery collected the MoD requires imagery analysts. There is currently an 18% deficit in imagery analysts in the RAF. The MoD must address the manning deficits in these areas in order to gain the maximum value from its current and future UAV systems.

The MoD has acquired a range of UAVs which collect ISTAR information. However, improvements are required in how the information collected is processed and disseminated. Two major programmes—Defence Information Infrastructure (http://www.defense-aerospace.com/cgi-bin/client/modele.pl?prod=95813&session=dae.40287193.1217986483.k6uQjn8AAAEAABsiDw 4AAAAK&modele=release) and DABINETT (http://www.qinetiq.com/home/defence/defence_solutions/command_and_control/interoperability/dabinett.html)—are expected to deliver these improvements. It is vital that they are delivered to the planned timetable so that the ISTAR information collected can be fully exploited.

The Defence Industrial Strategy (DIS) of December 2005 and the Defence Technology Strategy of October 2006 both acknowledged the importance of capabilities and technologies relating to ISTAR and UAVs. UK industry is considered to be world class in a number of areas relating to UAVs, such as some sensor technologies. It is crucial that the MoD ensures that the updated version of the DIS is published without further delay so that those parts of industry working in high technology areas, such as those relating to ISTAR and UAVs, are provided with the clarity they require about future work and where they need to invest.

UAVs are only one approach to collecting ISTAR information and only one element of ISTAR capability. Given the importance of ISTAR, the Defence Committee plans to undertake further inquiries into this key military capability.
Complete 149-page document at the link.

11-15-2008, 12:27 AM
Interesting paper, but as always entirely focused on the collection asset and not the element that delivers the effect: the analytical element.

At best they identify the limited number of analysts, however, their systems integration issues are blandly glossed over as "There are a wide range of challenges, some of which are international or crossdepartmental, which have to be addressed . . . . "

ISTAR is a misnomer as Intelligence informs/directs Surveillance and Reconnaissance in order to perform target acquisition.

A more accurate description might be ISRI as Intelligence informs/directs Surveillance and Reconnaissance and the out put of both is used to provide information/intelligence for a decision to be based upon.

William F. Owen
11-15-2008, 07:52 AM
At best they identify the limited number of analysts, however, their systems integration issues are blandly glossed over as "There are a wide range of challenges, some of which are international or crossdepartmental, which have to be addressed . . . . "

Well you can always rely on the UK MOD to screw up a good idea and then talk about "Systems" "Jointery" and "Purples" approaches.

There is a vast amount of experience in operating UAV available to the UK. - can't see the challenge personally.

06-10-2010, 11:20 AM
UK House of Commons Defence Committee, 16 Mar 10: The Contribution of ISTAR to Operations (http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmdfence/225/225.pdf)

....Our first inquiry, in addition to laying the groundwork for future ISTAR inquiries, concentrated on one of the principal means of collecting information, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). We signalled in the Report on UAVs the intention to examine later in this Parliament the MoD’s progress in addressing the challenge of how better to process and disseminate the information collected. Given the importance of current UK operations in Afghanistan, we decided to use our second inquiry to probe the area of processing and dissemination within the context of the current and anticipated future operational use of ISTAR assets. The key questions on which we wished to focus were:

• How are the various ISTAR capabilities being managed and coordinated: who has overall Command and Control in the UK and on operations?

• What contribution have existing systems in Afghanistan made to ISTAR capability?

• What difference has ISTAR made to the security of UK deployed troops, for example in reducing the number of IED casualties?

• To what extent has ISTAR increased the accuracy of coalition targeting and reduced civilian casualties?

• To what extent are the right personnel in place, and trained, to deliver ISTAR in operations?

• Have the benefits of Network Enabled Capability been realised in permitting a greater variety of sensors and weapons to be available on demand to commanders and troops on the ground?

• What are the gaps in current ISTAR capabilities?

• What more needs to be done for the full benefits of ISTAR to be realised?

• To what extent are existing ISTAR systems and capabilities interoperable with coalition forces?

• What lessons can be drawn from current operations for developing future capabilities?
Complete report at the link.

07-13-2010, 06:57 AM
Not a sales pitch! Headlined 'Long-range Taranis drone unveiled'.
An unmanned combat aircraft capable of striking in another continent has been unveiled by the Ministry of Defence after three-and-a-half years of research.