Future intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations—especially in the Pacific—may be hampered by spottier satellite coverage than currently enjoyed over Iraq and Afghanistan, Air Combat Command boss Gen. Hawk Carlisle warned. “The good news for the CENTCOM [area of responsibility] and the European AOR is that there’s a greater amount of satellite and comm capability than there is in other parts of the world,” Carlisle said in a briefing at JB Langley-Eustis, Va., Nov. 17. Existing coverage and pre-staged assets have eased the task of providing popup demand for ISR in Ukraine, Iraq, and Syria, but “in the Pacific, [bandwidth] was one of the biggest challenges,” he said. Even before potential adversary jamming and disruption, ISR coverage suffers simply due to a lack of “assets on orbit,” Carlisle noted. “As we shift from one combatant command to another, now we realize our toolbox might be different,” added Col. Ray Alves, ACC U-2 and MC-12 program manager. “Maybe we don’t have enough satellites … are there other ways—perhaps an airborne node or something like that” that can be used to deliver comparable ISR support. “It’s just a matter of evolving the tactics to make sure we are able to service the combatant commanders,” Alves added.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.