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PRECISION TIMING, LOCATION, NAVIGATION:
GPS AND THE PRECISION REVOLUTION
Dr. Bradford W. Parkinson*
Mr. George W. Bradley III
Brig Gen Daniel J. Darnell, USAF
Dr. Ivan A. Getting
Introduced by: Dr. Michael I. Yarymovych*
The history of human navigation goes back thousands of years, through the
invention of the compass needle, the sextant and the chronometer, arriving at the
introduction of radio navigation in the 1920’s and its operational use in WWII.
Nuclear submarine operations created the need for satellite-based navigation, which
then was further driven by the requirements of fast moving airplanes. In the 1970s,
the Global Positioning System emerged as a radical new way to provide precise
navigation for all US armed forces across the globe. The development of GPS, the
most revolutionary navigation tool since the invention of the chronometer, is
described, highlighting the technologies that went into its successful implementation.
It was declared operational in 1995, although both civilian and military users had
been exploiting the available developmental system for more than ten years.
Military use of GPS got its first operational application in Desert Storm, was
then used for precision warfare in the Kosovo operation, and eventually became the
major force enhancer in Afghanistan and Iraq. The number of operational receivers
has increased exponentially over the last decade as the technology has moved in
diverse and unexpected directions. Although GPS was originally designed for defense
missions, civilian receivers now far outnumber military receivers. GPS has become a
global utility with immeasurable potential benefits for all humanity – thanks to
military science and technology development and Air Force implementation.
TIGHTENING THE CIRCLE: THE REVOLUTION OF PRECISION GUIDED
Dr. Robert L. Sierakowski
Lt Gen Daniel P. Leaf*
Dr. Robert P. White*
Introduced by: Lt Gen William T. Hobbins
Weapons designed to strike the enemy at ever-increasing distances, and with
ever-increasing precision and lethality, are the result of critical scientific
discoveries funded by the Department of Defense. The development and refinement
of “Precision Guided Munitions”, or “PGMs”, can be traced back to initiatives
taken prior to and during World War II to increase the effectiveness of aircraft
The real revolution in PGMs occurred in the 1970’s with the development and
maturity of laser research and space-based initiatives such as the Global
Positioning System. Beginning with their use in Vietnam, through the Gulf War,
Kosovo, Afghanistan, and through their latest employment in Iraq, there have been
marked improvements in PGM employment. Each improvement demonstrates a successful
lessons learned approach from the previous conflict.
These improvements will continue due in large part to the technologists and the
warfighters who, in concert with military and civilian visionaries, conceived
unique concepts and possibilities with the marriage of seemingly disparate
discoveries. The results have been revolutionary in the art of warfare.
REMOTE SENSING: ENLISTING THE SPECTRUM
FOR AIR FORCE ADVANTAGE
Dr. Ruth P. Liebowitz
Dr. Edward A. Watson*
Maj Gen Stephen G. Wood
Introduced by: Dr. Janet S. Fender
The electo-optical/infrared (EO/IR) wavelength in the spectrum has provided a
versatile sensing tool for military use since at least the 1950’s. EO/IR imaging
technologies have contributed significant capabilities to meet Air Force requirements
for target detection, identification, and tracking. The EO/IR has proven to be a
versatile sensing tool for many applications since the 1950s. Although each system
and platform utilizing EO/IR sensors requires different designs, they all share some
basic technical parameters and components.
The paper describes the EO/IR technologies that have been developed to achieve
current Air Force capabilities, focusing on infrared thermal imaging systems. It
also places the development of these technologies in the context of changing
political-military conditions. Lastly, there is a discussion of an Air Force
operator’s experience with an EO/IR application of growing importance—sensors on
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
REMOTE SENSING FROM THE AIR:
TAKING RADAR TO NEW HEIGHTS
Dr. Thomas W. Thompson*
Dr. Ruth P. Liebowitz
Mr. Jon S. Jones
Dr. Robert J. Mailloux
Lt Gen Bruce K. Brown, USAF, Ret.*
Introduced by: Maj Gen Joseph P. Stein, USAF*
The advantage of the “vertical”; that is, the capability to see farther and better
than the adversary, has long been a cardinal principle of warfare. This paper
explores how radar and sensor technologies developed in Air Force laboratories have
permitted application of the principle in what is perhaps its most effective use to
date: airborne remote sensing for purposes of command and control.
Beginning in 1954, the Air Force organized airborne radar early warning units with
EC-121 aircraft. The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), the Joint
Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JOINT STARS), and fighter-based airborne
remote sensing systems followed. Key to our success were USAF research and
development (R&D) efforts that provided critical enabling technologies, particularly
low side-lobe antennas, signal processing, Air Moving Target Indicator (AMTI), Ground
Moving Target Indicator (GMTI), forward looking solid state radars, and sensor
fusion. Numerous examples, most recently Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, attest
to the operational utility of Airborne Remote Sensing.
DIRECTED ENERGY: THE WAVE OF THE FUTURE
Dr. Robert W. Duffner*
Dr. Robert R. Butts
Dr. J. Doug Beason
Gen Ronald R. Fogleman, USAF, Ret.*
Introduced by: Maj Gen Donald L. Lamberson, USAF, Ret.
The wave of the future for directed energy technologies in many ways began with
the discovery of the laser in May 1960. A beam of energy that travels at the speed
of light immediately appealed to the military community which envisioned high-power
lasers as a new class of weapons, destined to revolutionize the science and art of
warfare in the 21st century. To turn that concept into reality, the Air Force
laboratory system took and maintained the lead in the development of an operational
airborne laser weapon system.
The focus of this paper is on the development and transformation of the airborne
laser, covering nearly four decades as it evolved from a “laboratory in the sky” to
a full-scale operational weapon platform capable of unleashing deadly beams of light
to disable or destroy ground- and air-launched missiles. Unmistakably, the Airborne
Laser Laboratory (ALL) ranks as the Wright Flyer of the laser world and has served as
the technological bridge between laboratory research and the current Airborne Laser
(ABL). Along the way, new and improved technologies emerged from the Air Force
laboratories—such as the chemical oxygen iodine laser and sophisticated adaptive
optics—which, combined, have enabled the propagation of a high quality, high-powered
beam through a turbulent atmosphere to ensure the long-range delivery of sufficient
energy to engage and disable enemy weapon systems.
PILOTS IN EXTREME ENVIRONMENTS:
ENFORCING POLICY FROM THE EDGE OF SPACE
Maj Gen Robert F. Behler, USAF, Ret.*
Dr. Russell R. Burton
Dr. George C. Mohr
Dr. William J. Sears
Dr. Billy E. Welch
Introduced by: Col Joe Kittinger, USAF, Ret.
The USAF SR-71 “Blackbird” is a superb example of the application of science and
technology in service to the nation. The far-sighted and often heroic efforts of
human systems researchers laid the foundation for life-support technologies that
allowed pilots to operate in extreme environments. As a result, the SR-71, since
its development in the 1960’s, has taken pilots and reconnaissance systems officers
to the edge of space and back while providing the nation’s top decision-makers
awesome capabilities in a single platform to demonstrate national power.
From 80,000 feet and at Mach 3, the Blackbird reliably provided our leaders
critically important national intelligence from an evolving array of the most
advanced reconnaissance sensors the US science and technology community could
provide. Underlying this impressive capability are the steady developments in human
systems research, which led to ever-improving capabilities for crew members to fly
higher, faster, and longer.
The role of the Blackbird in the 1984 MiG-21 crisis is a case study in the nation’s
use of intelligence. In October 1984, intelligence reported that Soviet MiG fighters
were crated and being shipped on a Bulgarian freighter. Three SR-71 missions,
piloted by the first author, provided decision makers critical intelligence on the
location and destination of the possible MiGs while placing our Soviet and
Sandinista adversaries on notice that we were watching closely and were willing to
act to enforce the Monroe Doctrine.
MILITARY SATELLITE COMMUNICATIONS:
FROM CONCEPT TO REALITY
Dr. Harry L. Van Trees*
Lt Gen Harry D. Raduege*
Dr. Rick W. Sturdevant
Mr. Ronald E. Thompson
Introduced by: Dr. Alexander Levis
Military satellite communications have had a major impact on the success of recent
military operations such as Iraqi Freedom. Following a brief review of basic
satellite characteristics such as orbital locations, frequency bands, bandwidth
considerations and terminal characteristics, the evolution of military satellite
systems from a paper concept in 1945 to the sophisticated systems of today is
The technological developments that enabled the implementation of the Defense
Satellite Communications System (DSCS), Milstar, and UHF Follow-on (UFO) systems, as
well as various commercial adjuncts are discussed. Although some specific elements
such as multiple beam antennas, phased arrays, signal design and on-board switching
are discussed, the technology focus is at the systems level. Specific operational
successes that relied on military satellite communications are described. The
technology developments required to support the evolving operational concepts are
ACCESS TO SPACE: BOOSTERS, ROCKET
PLANES AND LIFTING BODIES
Dr. Rick W. Sturdevant*
Mr. John H. Darrah
Lt Gen Forrest McCartney, USAF, Ret.
Introduced by: Lt Gen Forrest McCartney, USAF, Ret. (Video)
Almost from their inception, Air Force long-range ballistic missiles—Atlas, Titan,
and Thor, which were designed to project thermonuclear warheads toward targets
thousands of miles distant, provided the nation with a significant space launch
capability. These ICBMs and IRBMs were transformed in the late 1950s into dependable
space launchers and eventually into today’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles. The
Air Force also contributed to the development of several powerful upper stages that
significantly improved national space launch capability.
Moving into the realm of reusable launch vehicles (RLVs), the Air Force led, or
participated in, development and testing of several manned aerospace vehicles.
Cooperation between NASA and the Air Force has been key to the advancement of this
RLV technology: from the X-15 and Dyna-Soar to lifting bodies and the Space Shuttle.
Pursuit of a National Aerospace Plane in the early 1990s highlighted the utility of a
military space plane as part of a new generation of reusable launch vehicles to
replace the shuttle.
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