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New Technology Expands Air Force's Combat Capability

By Capt. Dustin Hart, USAF
Special to American Forces Press Service

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga., Jan. 25, 2007 – A new system will allow airmen to identify possible enemy firing locations by tracking where shots are coming from.

The 820th Security Forces Group here was selected recently as the first Air Force unit to purchase and deploy the Ground Situational Awareness Toolkit, which consists of the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial system and ShotSpotter gunfire acquisition technology.

"This system brings additional technology to the ground warfighter and keeps us at the cutting edge of technological improvements," said Col. John Decknick, 820th SFG commander. "Employing the GSAT system in the combat zone will greatly expand our combat capability."

While the 820th SFG will be the first Air Force unit to conduct a user evaluation of the GSAT system, its two components, Scan Eagle and ShotSpotter, are not new to the military. Scan Eagle has logged more than 20,000 hours, supporting Navy and Marine missions in Iraq, and ShotSpotter is used by both law enforcement and military agencies.

ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors, located on the backs of patrolling airmen and Humvees, to detect the location of enemy muzzle blasts and, in some cases, the path of the fired projectiles. This information is then passed to on-the-ground commanders for analysis. It also is shared with an overhead Scan Eagle, which then directs its advanced cameras to the area, giving a picture of the enemy's location.

Scan Eagle, four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, is launched by a catapult system and can fly for about 20 hours.

"This technology will allow us to observe enemy locations and activity, and conduct long-term surveillance and reconnaissance," 2nd Lt. Ben Worley, an 820th SFG intelligence officer, said of the GSAT's capabilities. "It also provides better situational awareness (of the battlespace) to our commanders.

"With the variety of missions we conduct while deployed, having an overhead capability allows us to better prosecute our mission and protect our airmen," he said.

To prepare for GSAT's arrival in early March, three airmen are traveling to Clovis, N.M., for eight weeks of training on how to operate and maintain the system.

To fully use GSAT on its own, 820th SFG officials also are sending two maintainers and an intelligence airman to Clovis to attend shorter training courses on maintaining the systems and analyzing the information they provide.

Once training is completed and GSAT arrives here, the 820th SFG airmen will begin incorporating it into the unit's ground training. This also will allow officials to evaluate the GSAT while performing the various missions it may encounter when deployed.

After the evaluation of GSAT is concluded, the equipment will be matched with one of the unit's deploying squadrons.

(Air Force Capt. Dustin Hart is assigned to 23rd Wing Public Affairs.)

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