Britain and Australia will both have their own nodes of the Distributed Common Ground System, said Lt. Gen. Larry James, Air Force intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance chief, on Thursday. The DCGS is a network of centers worldwide that processes, exploits, and disseminates intelligence products from imagery and other data gathered by overhead ISR assets. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored breakfast in Arlington, Va., on April 18, James said the Air Force has “a tremendous partnership” with Britain. He said the Brits stood up their first MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft squadron at Waddington, Britain, this year, “a major milestone for them.” They have been flying Reapers and MQ-1 Predator RPAs out of Creech AFB, Nev., “for several years; in fact they’ve flown over 40,000 combat hours to date,” said James. “They also have a DCGS node there in the UK,” providing PED for “one line” of Predator/Reaper data, and this summer will start to perform PED for MC-12 Liberty aircraft as well, he said. Britain’s first of three RC-135-type signals intelligence aircraft is now in test and will be operational in October, noted James. Australia has had four pilots flying MC-12s in Afghanistan, and the Air Force has been operating some space assets from Australia, he said. “They’re also developing their own Distributed Common Ground System; they can help us with some of the data processing,” said James. “That coalition is extremely important.”
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.