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DoD News Briefing: Major General David Vesely, 14th Air Force Commander

Presenters: Major General David Vesely, 14th Air Force Commander
December 21, 1995

Monday, December 18, 1995

Lt. Col. Pribyla: OK, guys, this is a single subject, on the record briefing on space support to U.S. forces in Bosnia for operation JOINT ENDEAVOR. Major General David Vesely and that's spelled V-E-S-E-L-Y is the commander of the 14th Air Force. The Air Force component of U.S. Space Command. The 14th Air Force supports warfighters worldwide with ballistic missile warning, command and control of DOD and NATO satellite, space launch, range operations and global space surveillance and warning. The general will have a few opening remarks and then he will take your questions. Following the presentation, we do have some B-roll available of some of these things that he'll be showing you today as well as some press kits with his bio in there. So, if you didn't catch the spelling on his name, you'll be fine. At this time, I'd like to introduce General Vesely.

Gen. Vesely: Thank you very much. Good afternoon everyone. I'm here to address Air Force support and space support to the Bosnia operations in particular. But before that, I'd like to just give some background on what we do in the space business. During DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, it became very clear that space was an important part of military operations and it was the first time that we did integrated space significantly into military operations. And the senior military officers out of that experience recognized first, that space had major contributions to virtually all military operations and, second, we didn't really know enough about space and how to do that. So, we have focused efforts in all of the services on better exploitation of the resources that we invested in space and space systems.

We've also changed a number of the ways we do military operations beginning with doctrine, organization, emphasizing space applications into the various military operations. We've also emphasized education and training to make sure that military officers, operators understand what space can contribute to their problem and the solution to those problems.

The bottom line of all of that is we are trying to make space a routine part of military operations which is one of the goals that Secretary Widnall has given to the space forces of the United States Air Force. Our missions include: space forces support, which is, basically, launching satellites and then controlling them once they are in orbit; space control, which is ensuring that we have free access to space; and denying space-based information to an enemy, if that's necessary.

But, more importantly, for this operation, is an area called force enhancement which includes making sure that our forces have space-based communications, navigation, weather, surveillance, and then if needed, warning of ballistic missile attack, which we don't necessarily expect in the Bosnia area.

So, those are the focuses of Air Force Space Command and I'd like to address each of those areas a little bit. I think you understand how much military forces rely upon communications and space based communications are critically important to any operation and not the least of which is this one.

We have a number of commercial, military, and, in fact, NATO satellites involved in this operation and we have done some minor repositioning of those satellites to make sure that we are -- we have provided the support. Second, is in navigation, the Global Positioning System satellite constellation is up providing precise navigation support to the military forces in Bosnia. And I'll show you a little bit of that. Likewise, I think we've all seen how important weather is to military operations and in particular this one. We have a constellation of military and commercial satellites which are providing up-to-the-minute weather information to the forces in theater. And, of course, surveillance and the ballistic missile warning are also critically important to those operations.

Now to specifically address some of those, the navigation aspect of the operations again, are very, very important. And I have a piece of equipment that most of the Army forces and the ground forces will have. It is a GPS receiver. As you may note, the GPS is a constellation of 24 satellites continually orbiting the earth sending out precision navigation and timing signals. And anyone who has a receiver similar to this or actually smaller than this, and this can be mounted in a vehicle or on a ship, will get very precise geographic coordinates so they know exactly where they are, and we'll guarantee that within about 15 meters to anyone on the ground with the military receiver.

Now that will become critically important in this operation because knowing your precise location is important if you're going to patrol a specific area, you must know exactly where you are or need to navigate through very difficult terrain with marginal weather and road conditions. So, all of our forces have learned to use the GPS receivers for precise navigation to a great extent.

One aspect that we've been able to exploit in the precision navigation is in our survival radio system. You're all aware that Captain O'Grady was shot down some time ago -- earlier this year. He had with him a small GPS receiver which would tell him his location and he had that in his survival vest. He also had with him a survival radio and he was able to talk to rescue forces on that radio. But, he had to transmit to them what his precise location was using the voice transmission.

We have had under development for some time a survival radio which combines those two aspects. And this is a prototype copy of that radio which is in production right now and will be sent to both the Navy and Air Force forces. It is a normal survival radio that looks very much like the one that Captain O'Grady carried. We take that radio. We incorporate a GPS receiver into the radio. He merely turns it on and hits a button and gets his precise GPS coordinates displayed for him. He can also push another button and send -- via a microburst -- that precise geographic location in a transmission of less than a second. And that also includes up to an 80-character message that he can send with him. Like wires he can receive on this radio messages just like you would in the -- in a beeper that we carry today. So, we've incorporated that handy device to combine again the survival aspects of the radio and the GPS receiver.

Q: Will that be available now or is just coming off the lines or will that be available to troops, pilots, suppliers?

A: It is now just in production and it will be available, I believe, early this spring. About 500 copies to the Army and 500 to the Air Force with a follow on production based on how well that goes.

Q: You said the Army --

A: I'm sorry. Navy and Air Force.


Q: Who makes it? What company makes it?

A: I'm not sure who the contract went to. We can get you that answer.

Q: Sir, the manufactured Motorola cost?

A: I will leave the focumatics of that to [inaudible]. I'm not exactly sure the cost. I know what the entering area was, but I'll defer to that.

The third area that we've learned to exploit is multispectral imagery which we gather from Landsat and Spot among other sources of space-based imagery. I think you're familiar with the normal imagery display. This is, in fact, a Landsat shot. In fact, two shots of the Tuzla area wherein you can not only display the map like features, the geographic aspects of it, but the road and the railroad complex are also in there. The Tuzla Airport is shown right here. And that gives us a broad area coverage which, in fact, we were missing to a great extent in DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM.

But, there are other aspects of multispectral imagery that we've been able to exploit and I'd like to demonstrate one of those to you now which was done sometime ago when we were doing air drop missions into Sarajevo. You may recall that, when the initial air drop crews were planning those missions, they were looking for a suitable drop area and spent literally hours and, in fact, days planning those missions to find a suitable drop area. We found a better way to do it. And we took Landsat imagery. This shows the Sarajevo area. And we then broke it up into the multispectral portions of the data and plotted forested areas, urban areas, light vegetation, wetlands, and whatnot. And we went to the air drop community and said we do not want to drop in a urban area for fear of hurting someone or losing it. We do not want to drop obviously in wetlands. It's difficult to get. And we don't want to drop in forested areas likewise, you can lose the bundles.

So, we used this to delimit and I used a go/no-go criteria. So, that in red would be not appropriate for a drop area. That in green would. We then took digital data that was derived from space-based resources and looked at the terrain looking for a slope. We did not want to drop those bundles on steep sloped terrain for damage purposes and also trying to recover the packages. So, we said anything less than 10 percent, slope is OK. Anything more than that is not. And again, we used a go/no-go criteria.

We combined those two to come up with a go area for land drop and again, went back to the community and said how large an area do you need. They said we need at least 600 meters by 600 meters. He threw that in his criteria and came up with the following go drop areas. You lay that back over the map area and you now have suitable drop areas for your air drops. And, oh by the way, this takes minutes to hours to mission plan versus the hours and days that they were doing before. Very successful.

One of the dilemmas of doing -- getting space-based information to the right user is getting information directly into the cockpit of aircraft. That's very difficult in the small aircraft but in the larger aircraft where we have more equipment room and an environment that's more conducive to that equipment, we've been very successful.

We now have a system called the multisource tactical system which is today, flying on the airborne command and control aircraft. It is flying on the airlift aircraft that are going into Tuzla. It has been flying on the C-130s, the C-5s and the C-140s flying into Sarajevo for some time. We've been able to bring the equipment down to this size and we will demonstrate this for you a little bit after the briefing and I will show you a tape of it.

But, this is the actual equipment that's on the aircraft to include the display that is actually in the cockpit of the aircraft. And on there, we can display the route of flight, threats to the aircraft, weather for the aircraft as they approach their area, and, in fact, some of the digital presentations that you saw earlier in the day from General Estes.

I'd like to go ahead and roll the film if we could now. This is going to be a short presentation of what would be presented here. This is the route of flight into Tuzla. The aircraft is shown here. The blue area shows and the red area shows the blue and the red forces that are up to threats that may be up and the blue forces are friendly forces. It's difficult to see here, but this is the water area. We can actually show that over a map display.

This is the aircraft flying here. It will have a turning point and then fly into the airport at Tuzla. They can see this display at anytime they want. Here, they can bring up the weather as it's transmitted to the aircraft. And then finally, we'll see a digital display.

Now, this is the digital terrain. This is a threat that we not only put in here that the crew has now flight planned around and they can fly around that threat to make sure they do not enter the threat ring. This is digital data that has been derived in space base and other sources. And in the next scene you'll see the crew will actually be able to fly their route into the Tuzla Airport as depicted here much as you saw in General Estes' presentation.

This is the digital data that represents the terrain over which they will fly command into the Tuzla area and you'll see the Tuzla Airport up in this area. And you'll see that we can, in fact, freeze it any one time and enhance that enhance that data so that it, in fact, is a better representation of exactly what they will see as you see there.

OK. That's all the film. Lights up, please and I'll be happy to take your questions.

Q: General, you said you have a mixture of commercial, U.S. military and NATO-dedicated satellites.

A: Communication satellites.

Q: Communications?

A: Correct.

Q: Commercial and military, U.S. military?

A: Yes.

Q: And NATO satellites too?

A: Yes, NATO has a few satellites that they brought up for this operation. You know, that this is a fairly significant NATO operation.

Q: How many satellites are we talking about? How many of them are geosynchronous and can they see through -- can any of them see through cloud cover?

A: These are all communication satellites so they are, in fact, all geosynchroned and geosynchronous orbit and cloud cover has no bearing on the communication sections.

Q: So, none of these are visual satellites?

A: Correct. None of them are taking imagery. That's correct.

Q: Follow up on that. General Paige [ph] said last week that we need more communications satellite resources dedicated to JOINT ENDEAVOR than to Operation DESERT STORM/DESERT SHIELD. Could you elaborate on that? Can you tell me what links are in today and what links you expect to have in?

A: I'm not exactly sure what his reference was to how much the satellite communication. We used a very robust satellite communications architecture in DESERT STORM. But, as you can appreciate, Europe has a very large satellite communications structure, not only owned by the European nations but also by consortia's such as IntelSat. And we're also, of course, using the U.S. military satellite communications and the few NATO satellites which are up there. So, I don't know the specific numbers. We can probably get to those. It's on the order of well over a dozen though.

Q: Why not imaging?

A: I'm sorry?

Q: I mean, why not imaging? Wouldn't that be helpful?

A: We're using imaging satellites if that's what you meant.


Q: Well, I thought you said they are all COMM satellites, all communications.

A: We disconnected here. I thought you were referring to the mix of commercial NATO and U.S. satellites. Those specifically I was addressing communication satellites.

Q: But, you are using imaging satellites?

A: Absolutely. We're using Landsat and Spot. We're, in fact, currently directly feeding the French Spot imagery into the European theater and have for several years for use in mission planning. And we have just made arrangements to direct feed Landsat imagery into the theater as well to Ramstein, Germany and then we can disseminate it elsewhere.

Q: How about commercial imaging? Pardon me. Military imaging satellites. These are both commercial, right?

A: We are using a number of imaging systems to include the military systems, yes.

Q: Are you using the Milstar satellites?

A: We are although they're not positioned ideally for this and the second satellite, as you are aware, was just launched and it's still in R&D checkout. We are using Milstar 1 to some extent. But, that's primarily reserved for national command authority at this point. It certainly will be once it's through the R&D checkout period.

Q: You said there has been some minor repositioning of the satellites for this operation. Were you referring to both for imagery purposes or communications?

A: No, just the communications satellites. We've moved some that were a little further east over to the west to give some coverage on some support.

Q: And again, can we assume that these, some of these can see through cloud cover? I mean, clouds are a major problem.

A: Clouds are a significant problem and that's why for example weather satellites are critical to us to know exactly what the moisture content of that cloud cover is so we know whether infra red weapon systems and others can see through that cloud cover.

Q: But without getting into sensitive stuff again, can some of these satellites, these imaging satellites we assume can see through cloud cover.

A: Some can, yes.

Q: This system here, what is it called and how many do you have out there that are being used?

A: I'm sorry.

Q: The system to find your drop zones.

A: This is a -- this is a system that we actually purchased. This is Landsat imagery that it is -- and I'm not sure the size of the Landsat constellation. It is not a U.S. Air Force system. We are also using Spot imagery again, with the same concept behind it using the multispectral aspect rather than the high resolution aspect of that imagery.

Q: That's all commercial then, the processing of eliminating slope in urban areas?

A: This is all taken from commercial satellites.

Q: Is Eagle Eye at Ramstein or Rhein Main or has the Hanscom project down-linked Spot imagery, and is there any plans to put it into Tuzla?

A: It is called "Eagle Vision." And, in fact, we are feeding the imagery from Ramstein into the theater of operation. I believe it's going into Aviano right now.

Q: Any possibility of moving Eagle Vision into Tuzla?

A: That could be. The theater has that system and could move it at its desire. So, it's a theater receive system. In other words, it does not belong to me. It belongs to me to the theater commander. He could certainly move it if he wanted to.

Q: That's at Aviano now?

A: No, it's at Ramstein right now.

Q: One of the criticisms from the Gulf War is that you could not get national satellite imagery into the theater and get it quickly enough or interpreted quick enough to be of use to commanders on the ground. Has that changed any?

A: It has. In fact, we put a lot of focus on the distribution of national imagery and all imagery, in fact. The problem with very high resolution imagery or different kinds of imagery is the communications line that it takes to move it in there. So, we've worked on data compression and a number of other things to try to get that imagery to the right user at the right time. But, in many cases, the user doesn't need that high resolution imagery. They can use the imagery that I showed you of the Tuzla area and we're able to provide that at much lower data rates.

Q: So, how far down have you pushed national imagery to get it to a customer out in the field?

A: Oh, the people flying in the aircraft are flying with that national imagery available to them today.

Q: What about unit commanders on the ground? Do they have access to that?

A: Absolutely. Absolutely. The Army distribution has improved significantly, but I'm not an expert in that system per se. I've mostly been focused on the Air Force distribution.

Q: And are you buying any Russian data, commercial data?

A: We are not that I know of now. Not in 14th Air Force.


Q: And do you know what the budget is for purchase of Landsat or Spot data?

A: I don't, but I'll defer you to the programmatic experts who we can get you here in the building.

Q: Along the commercial birds you're using, are you using any of the Russian constellations?

A: For commercial?

Q: Right, into the area of operations.

A: No, not to my knowledge. None of the -- primarily, international consortia satellites and U.S. commercial and military.

Q: Do you have a breakdown of the numbers of satellites, not just communications, but imagery, weather, --

A: I don't have the numbers per se. We can get you all of that which is not classified. Communication satellites, certainly we can get that.

Q: Would you sort of follow up on the previous question about comparing this space operation to DESERT STORM? How would you characterize that?

A: Well, I think there are similar aspects of this. We've become far more adept of being able to exploit space systems, precision navigation, for example. GPS is now in use and virtually every military unit that requires navigation of any sort. That was critically important in the desert because there was no terrain by which to navigate. I think it's going to turn out to be extremely important in certain operations here.

For example, the countermine operation, knowing precisely where you are with respect to those mines is critically important. Knowing precisely where the mines is also critically important. And so, being able to precisely navigate, precisely locate systems is going to be important and GPS is going to provide a great benefit in doing that.

Q: How exactly does that work, the countermine procedure? Once minefields are discovered on the ground, that location is entered into sort of a central computer system so it's mapped out essentially.

A: I'm not exactly sure how they're going to do that in theater. It's my understanding that the forces at hand were obligated to identify those landmined areas. We would then locate them, courting them off, and then proceed with the removing those mines over there, disarming them.


Q: Are you looking at a situation where your GPS receiver will set off an alarm if you find yourself going into a minefield?

A: No, no. We're not -- the GPS has nothing to do with the location of mines, only in precisely locating where you are.

Q: But once that's been mapped out, that's still not an option having, you know, your beeper go off when you're getting too close to a mine and having it mapped out or identified?

A: No, not with the GPS.

Q: Is there any thought being given to turning on select availability?

A: No, I don't believe so. That's certainly an option, but we see no need for that at this time. As to what the availability is, it is not an issue thus far in this operation.

Q: Are the MSPS systems in all the trans -- you mentioned 141s, C-5s, C-130s. Are they in all those planes?

A: They are in virtually all of them and we can change them from system to system as they move into and out of theater as necessary. Those are managed by air mobility command. All of the C-17s that will go in are, in fact, wired for them. Some of the other aircraft require minor modifications. A hatch antenna needs to be moved onto the aircraft in order to receive the signals for the system.

Q: In other words, there's a small number of these that are kind of swapped in and out as aircraft fly in?

A: Yes, I'm not sure exactly how many systems there are currently.


Unknown Speaker: There are 14, sir.

Gen. Vesely: Fourteen of those now. So, as aircraft --

Unknown Speaker: It just takes minutes to re-outfit one plane to the next.

Q: And except for the GPS receivers, all of this capability that you're explaining is since the Gulf War? It's new to this --

A: It's a result of what I would call a developmental effort by all of the services toward applying space to warfighting and military operations and there are others. I just wanted to show you a few that certainly apply to the Bosnia operations.

Lt. Col. Pribyla: The General's got time for just two more questions before we have the last demonstration.


Q: You said the ballistic missile was not an issue or a minimum issue in the separation. But, when that threat became a problem, how would you say the space assets contribute to the missile warning?

A: Right. The defense support program provides warning of missile attack. And in DESERT STORM, we were able to provide that warning for the first time on theater ballistic missile threats. The system was designed to detect long- burning intercontinental ballistic missiles. We have improved that system to be able to report those theater level missiles within minutes of detection.

In the desert, it was -- excuse me, within seconds of detection. In the desert, it was minutes from detection to actual warning. And we now have systems in place that will do that within a matter of a few seconds from detection.

Q: Would that detect an SA-6, for example?

A: Possibly, but it depends on the weather conditions and several other things. It can detect an SA-6. Yes, exactly.

Anybody else? Thank you.

Press: Thank you.

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