Mr Chairman and Members of the Committee:
Thank you for this opportunity to appear before you and discuss the Air Forces activities in the area of unconventional emerging threats. With the fall of the Soviet Union, and other world events, the proliferation of unconventional threats to US airmen around the world has increased. Although the probability that a major power will use these weapons has diminished, the capability of other nations and terrorists for limited use of unconventional weapons has increased. These threats to our airmen are real, and we appreciate your concern, support, and funding of our efforts to protect our people. Countering these threats is a complex problem - there are no silver bullet solutions. The Air Force is actively working with the other Services to create balanced and affordable responses to these threats. Three areas of Air Force emphasis are chemical-biological protection, laser eye protection, and combat identification.
The primary chemical threats to air bases would be persistent chemical agents VX (a liquid, fast acting nerve agent) and HD (distilled mustard, a liquid blister agent), most likely delivered by rockets and missiles. Biological agents delivered by missiles and aerial, vehicle, or personnel mounted spray devices also pose a significant threat.
In FY94 Congress passed PL103-160, which integrated the Services Chemical and Biological Defense programs. In FY96, the funding for the various programs became jointly controlled, with multiple joint boards working requirements, programming, and budgeting. The Chemical Biological Defense Program (CBDP) is grouped into five commodity areas: contamination avoidance; collective protection; decontamination; medical; and, individual protection. I would like to address Air Force participation in these areas.
A high priority in the Contamination Avoidance area is the fielding of early detection networked systems for chemical and biological agents. With biological threats being a great concern to each of the Services, the Joint Program Office for Biological Defense (JPO-Bio) has initiated an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration for biological detection in PACOM and CENTCOM. This program has provided the Theater Commanders with a biological detection capability that has not existed before. The Air Force has the acquisition lead to consolidate several Services chemical detection programs into a single program. For example, Joint Chemical Agent Detector program will provide over 250,000 detectors for use on ships, planes, vehicles and personnel units. The program has passed Preliminary Design Review and is on-track to begin deliveries to the field in FY02.
Collective Protection provides a means for our airmen to rest and recover from the additional burden placed on them during operations in chemical or biological protective equipment. We are filling a near-term need in PACAF by providing collective protection on the Korean peninsula. To date, 50% of the fixed site collective protection has been renovated, with the remainder scheduled for completion within 12 to 18 months. We have also fielded the Chemically Hardened Air Transportable Hospital to meet the Air Force Medical Service needs to treat all Service patients pending air evacuation. This 50 bed hospital, and its 25 bed and 10 bed smaller cousins, will allow the Air Force the flexibility to tailor medical capability to the theater based on mission size. Our mid-term objectives include increasing the protection and lowering the weight and cube of these shelters.
The DoD priority in the Decontamination commodity area is to provide modernized, environmentally safe decontamination systems with a non-contact hazard suitable for use on all equipment including aircraft and electronic systems. Specifically for the Air Force, the decontamination of ports and airfields is a special interest. Our mid-term objective is to deliver greatly improved modular decon systems and modify existing systems. As our weapons systems become more and more dependent on electronics, the ability to decontaminate sensitive equipment becomes more important.
The DoD Chemical Biological Medical efforts will ensure the Joint Vaccine Acquisition Program obtains Federal Drug Administration licensing, as well as produces and stockpiles vaccines to protect against validated threats for all Services. The Services continue to look for improved biological agent pretreatment, antidotes, diagnostics and therapies to provide to the field. The medical community is also researching how to gain FDA support to reduce the vaccination schedule for Anthrax vaccine.
Our chemical and biological defense effort for Individual Protection focuses on several areas. First, our support of the Joint Service Lightweight Integrated Suit Technology (JSLIST) will provide better chemical protection, while reducing the heat stress our soldiers, seamen, airmen and marines endure. We are fielding an improved chem bio protection for Air Force pilots - Aircrew/Eye/Respiratory Protection (AERP). Today 50% of Air Force fleet is equipped with this capability. Although, this chem bio protection has not been integrated with our positive pressure breathing system which provides G-induced loss of consciousness protection, we are addressing this shortcoming with the Joint Service Aircrew Mask (JSAM), designed to satisfy requirements for both for fixed and rotary wing aircraft. This program will begin in FY00, with deliveries scheduled to begin in FY04.
In addition to the five commodity areas, the services also have a robust CBDP Technology Base effort. In the new and emerging threats area, we are refining the process between our intelligence communities and the laboratories to ensure the proper resources are budgeted in a timely manner to support warfighter needs. The DoD labs are also identifying the impacts of toxic industrial chemical/materials. In the detection area, we are focusing on biological sample preparations to reduce time required to identify biological agents following an attack. Our efforts are focused on stand-off detection capability for chemical agents, providing more lead time to don protective equipment and to avoid contaminated areas. We are also pursuing the ability to have our protective suits decontaminate themselves if exposed to a chemical agent, and are exploring other delivery means for decontaminants, such as foams and detergents.
The current joint Chemical Biological Defense Program stands at $4.9B for FY99 through FY05, including medical projects. The Services have worked hard to build and maintain a balanced and integrated CBDP in the face of a changing and increasing threat. This joint structure allows the Air Force to meet our airmens protective requirements.
Laser Eye Protection
Another concern in the area of personal protection is Laser Eye Protection. The Air Force is actively pursuing upgraded Laser Eye Protection (LEP) for aircrew and ground personnel from a wide range of lasers. Energy levels in laser beams range from harmless to very high energy lasers such as in our Airborne Laser currently being developed for theater missile defense. The DoD currently has approximately 48,000 lasers in use today for various applications.
The human eye is highly susceptible to lasers and low level effects include dazzle and flashblindness. Low power lasers can severely impact mission effectiveness or accomplishment and cause unsafe flight conditions. At higher energies, depending on the specific wavelength, a laser can cause either retinal or skin damage.
Current US military lasers can cause harm to friendly aircrews. For example, the F-15E and some F-16s equipped with Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) systems use laser designation for delivery of precision-guided munitions. The laser aboard the
AC-130U allows long-range laser targeting designation for other aircraft. And the F-117 is equipped with a laser target designator. The lasers in LANTIRN, F-117, and AC-130U can damage the eyes of aircrews unless protection is provided.
The Air Force recognizes these hazards and has taken action. For example, the Barnes visor, which was developed in response to incidents in the 1980s and used during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, was the first multi-line (multiple portions of the light spectrum) protection against invisible and limited visible laser threats approved by the Air Force for operations in the A-10 and F-16. In addition, the Air Force developed and fielded for limited use the FV-9 LEP spectacles for invisible wavelength protection. Each of these actions served to fill a specific need or event, but are not sufficient for use against all possible laser threats.
At present, enhanced LEP technology development and acquisition programs are underway in the Air Force, Army, and Navy. The LEP protection programs are based on specific wavelength threats. These include military lasers, the proliferation of commercial lasers, and foreign lasers specifically developed to damage the eyes or cause temporary vision loss. On 25 January 1999, the Air Force Chief of Staff directed my organization to finalize plans to provide an accelerated LEP capability by FY00. To meet this challenge, we are examining options to accelerate our existing LEP EMD program which is designed to provide Air Force personnel next generation laser eye protection. The ultimate goal is for complete wavelength protection against emerging agile laser threats.
Air Force LEP requirements call for a system which protects aircrews from laser devices employed by both friendly and hostile forces. LEP systems must provide sufficient protection to prevent permanent eye damage and, for LEP designed to protect against visible wavelengths, should protect against the temporary effects of laser weapons/devices.
Like our sister services, the Air Force has experienced several incidents which illustrate the complexities and urgency for laser eye protection. In June 1994 and April 1995, Air Force personnel were exposed to lasers while conducting nighttime operations near Keesler AFB and Nellis AFB. In both these instances, the aircrews inadvertently flew through a laser beam used by local hotels/casinos. Aircrew symptoms ranged from temporary flashblindness to eye pain and sensitivity to light. Crew members were seen by Air Force flight surgeons after the incidents. Fortunately, they were returned to flight status with no permanent eye damage.
Previous Laser Eye Protection devices were based on light absorbing dyes on polycarbonates. Laser absorbing dyes were used to produce the MBU-12/P and MBU-5/P visors for Air Force flyers helmets. In 1990, the San Antonio Air Logistics Center procured 1,017 each of the MBU-12/P and 152 each of the MBU-5/P visors. However, the amount of dye needed to obtain high levels of protection resulted in poor overall light transmission. These visors were too dark for most night operations and the technology employed to block lasers in the visible light spectrum caused aircrews difficulty in reading certain green phosphor cockpit displays. In addition, the original manufacturer is no longer producing the items, and other attempts at production have resulted in visors with unacceptable optical distortions.
In contrast, dyes used for invisible laser protection have only a modest impact on visible transmission. It is possible to fabricate LEP devices for invisible laser protection that are low-cost and easy to mass-produce. Over the last two years we have been field testing enhanced LEP devices (one absorptive dye technology and one advanced dielectric stack technology) to provide wide band invisible laser protection. The light absorbing dye technology used on the FV-9 spectacle is a product improvement over the FV-6/7 and FV-6MR spectacles. These field evaluations have recently been completed for Air Combat Command (ACC) and Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). As an outgrowth of early success with the A-10 community, 230 of the FV-9 dye based spectacles remain with the Combat Air Forces and the Air National Guard for continued evaluation of aircrew acceptance under mission conditions. This field evaluation should conclude by June 1999. AFSOC has granted approval for their aircrews to fly with the Army HGU-56/P laser eye protection glasses.
Complementary LEP programs are presently underway in the Air Force, Army and Navy. The Joint Army/Navy Engineering Manufacturing & Development (EMD) program, which the Air Force contributed funding and has an observer role, is attempting to field protection against lasers at specific wavelengths in the visible light spectrum. Air Force technology development and EMD programs are working to provide better protection against lasers operating in the invisible wavelength spectrum, provide protection against additional visible wavelengths with better optical performance, and ensure complete wavelength protection against emerging agile laser threats.
The ultimate goal in developing laser eye protection is to provide an adequate level of defense with full retinal coverage at any angle, while allowing visibility of the aircraft cockpit displays and good light transmission for use in night operations. Congress recognized this need and authorized a plus-up of $4.25M in FY99 for continued Air Force laboratory development of absorptive dyes and reflective technologies.
The Air Forces $10.1M Laser Eye Protection EMD effort is contained in the FY00 Presidents Budget with development funding spread between FY00 through FY03. The AF currently has a three phase LEP acquisition strategy designed to take advantage of evolving technologies and enable the Air Force to begin procurement of operationally suitable devices beginning in FY02. The three phases are:
Phase One: Develop LEP spectacles and visors for improved protection against laser threats and hazards in the invisible near-infrared spectrum using dielectric stack technology. These devices will allow for nighttime operations without degradation to mission performance.
Phase Two: Develop LEP spectacles for high threat fixed visible wavelengths and for invisible wavelength protection. The Navy hologram spectacles are one of the technologies scheduled to be evaluated during this phase.
Phase Three: Develop either a Tri-stimulus LEP spectacle for quasi wavelength-independent LEP or a flexible manufacturing process to meet rapidly changing laser technologies.
Recent laser incidents have served to highlight the need for LEP in the Air Force. The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the primary DoD developer of new LEP technologies and works closely with their counterparts in the Army and Navy on complementary LEP technologies. The ultimate goal is to integrate results of this research into complete wavelength protection against emerging agile laser threats.
The last area I would like to discuss is fratricide, specifically combat identification necessary to prevent fratricide. The Air Force is acutely aware of the potential for fratricide on the modern battlefield, and we are striving to improve the combination of operational procedures, tactics and technology used to distinguish between friend and foe.
Prior to the dismantling of the Soviet Union, most of our potential adversaries operated unique Warsaw Pact equipment and employed tactics which we became familiar with over years of careful observation. This helped to simplify the problem of combat identification during the Cold War. Today however, we are less certain who our future adversaries will be, or the kinds of equipment they will employ. Concurrent with the last decades political changes, advances in technology have greatly increased the range, precision and lethality of weapons while the proliferation of arms sales in a world unencumbered by Cold War constraints have made distinguishing between friend, foe and neutral parties more important and more difficult than ever before.
Given the complexity of todays combat identification problem, the Air Force recognizes that there is no single technological solution. Combat identification is a capability, not a program. Improving our ability to identify friends and enemies on the battlefield will require a combination of doctrine; tactics, techniques and procedures; and a family of on-board and off-board, cooperative and noncooperative, sensors fused and interconnected via data links. Collectively, this system-of-systems must gather and share the information necessary to accurately characterize every hostile, neutral, and friendly entity in the battlespace.
Though the challenge is tremendous, the Air Force is committed to solving the combat identification problem, not only to prevent fratricide but also to enhance our mission effectiveness. Effective combat identification allows the warfighter to make real-time battle management decisions and employ his weapons at optimal ranges, thereby avoiding the threat of hostile fire and minimizing the risk of fratricide.
Following the Gulf War, in 1992 the Department of Defense began addressing our combat identification deficiencies with the publication of a Joint Mission Needs Statement for Combat Identification. In 1993, the Department of Defense established the Joint Combat Identification Office to oversee joint combat identification requirements, and in 1994 the All Service Combat Identification Evaluation Team was chartered to evaluate our progress in combat identification, leading an annual two week exercise devoted to testing our capabilities in all mission areas, particularly with respect to joint tactics and interoperability. The ASCIET exercise has made a valuable contribution in identifying problems with joint tactics and procedures which Air Force operators are working to solve with members of the other Services.
To assess material combat identification solutions, the Air Force Combat Identification Integrated Management Team at Hanscom Air Force Base hosts bi-annual Investment Strategy Working Groups (ISWG) to identify and prioritize the most promising combat identification technologies. With participation from operators, scientists, and acquisition representatives from across the Air Force, the ISWG has evaluated over fifty potential combat identification technologies for their affordability and potential contribution to Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface combat identification.
The technology consistently identified by the ISWG as the greatest immediate contributor to combat identification shortfalls in the Air Force is data links. In accordance with the standards established by the Joint Tactical Data Link Management Plan signed in 1996, the Air Force is fielding Link 16. Aircraft equipped with Link 16 can share information on fuel states, weapons loads, radar pictures, engagement orders, airspace boundaries, and combat identification. Today,
F-15 Eagles from Mountain Home AFB, Idaho are already flying with Link 16, as are many of our command and control and surveillance aircraft. After flying with Link 16 our pilots were so impressed with its capability that the Air Force is proceeding with plans to integrate data links on our combat aircraft as soon as practical.
For some aircraft which primarily perform air-to-surface missions, the Air Force is installing the Situational Awareness Data Link (SADL) instead of Link 16. SADL was evaluated along with several other air-to-surface and surface-to-surface combat identification technologies as part of the Joint Combat Identification Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD). SADL provides our pilots with a unique capability to tie directly into the Armys digitized battlefield using the Enhanced Position Location Reporting System (EPLRS) network. Displaying the location of the five nearest EPLRS-equipped vehicles on the pilots Heads Up Display (HUD), SADL warns the pilot when his target is close to friendly EPLRS equipped units. In recent flight tests, this capability prevented erroneous targeting of friendly forces, and the SADL-equipped aircraft success rate for dropping ordnance on the first run was almost 100 percent -- a remarkable improvement over just a few years ago when most Close Air Support control tasks were done manually with binoculars and a radio. Moreover, the Air Force is working to provide the same functionality to Link 16-equipped aircraft through joint sponsorship of the Link 16/Variable Message Format (VMF) ACTD, which will demonstrate a gateway connecting the Air Forces Link 16 network with the Armys VMF network. The capability to control Link-16 aircraft performing close air support will provide tremendous leverage by allowing interoperability among all the Services as well as our NATO allies. The Air Force is also testing a two-way gateway this year at Expeditionary Force Exercise (EFX) 99. The gateway will enable SADL-equipped aircraft and Link 16 equipped aircraft to share a common air picture so Air National Guard and Air Force aircraft can operate more effectively together in the air battle.
The backbone of the Air Forces cooperative air-to-air combat identification for more than two decades has been the Mark XII Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) System. In accordance with the Department of Defenses March 1995 policy letter, the Air Force will continue to support the Mark XII as its principal IFF for the indefinite future. While cooperative identification using the Mark XII IFF and situational awareness networks like Link 16 and SADL will remain vital to our combat efforts for the foreseeable future, the Air Force still has an essential requirement for noncooperative identification capabilities which can be used to positively identify hostile, friendly or neutral aircraft and ground targets.
One promising noncooperative identification technology AFRL at Wright-Patterson AFB has been developing is High Range Resolution (HRR) radar. If HRR development is successful, this technology could someday contribute to long-range, high-confidence identifications of both air and ground targets in all weather conditions, day or night. The Air Force is on the leading edge of HRR development and we believe it holds great promise for the future of combat identification.
The Air Force Research Laboratory is also researching applications of lasers in noncooperative identification systems. The Enhanced Recognition and Sensing Ladar (ERASER) will add a new identification capability to Forward Looking Infrared Systems (FLIRs). Using an eyesafe laser, ERASER illuminates the target and takes a high-quality, short-wave infrared snapshot image. The advantages of laser-illuminated imaging over traditional infrared cameras are that the picture is more consistent than images produced with ambient light and the image has higher resolution and better magnification to help the pilot make longer range visual identifications. This capability could someday make an important contribution to our fighters ability to independently identify targets on the ground before they drop their ordnance, particularly when paired with a complementary capability like SADL or Link 16 or used to cue an automatic target recognition system.
In addition to these programs, the ISWG also strongly endorsed several other important noncooperative technologies including Joint STARS automatic target recognition and Air-to-Ground Radar Imaging. These technologies could give the Air Force high-payoff off-board and on-board capabilities to search large volumes of area behind enemy lines to locate, identify, and target the most critical ground targets which must be destroyed in future battles.
In conclusion, while we still have a long way to go, the Air Force has made progress in combat identification since Desert Storm. This is primarily true in our communications and data link programs which enable the passage of combat identification information among platforms. The Air Force has also identified key technologies which have great potential to reduce the risk of fratricide and increase mission effectiveness if they are developed for the future. In analyzing the numerous studies conducted by the Air Force at our Theater Air Command And Control Facility and the consistent results of exercises flown by Air Force pilots, it is clear that improving combat identification significantly increases mission effectiveness and reduces the incidence of fratricide.
In closing, I again thank you for this opportunity to explain what the Air Force is doing in these important areas of personal protection. We are making progress, but much work remains to be done. With assistance from the Congress, I believe we will be able to meet the challenge of these unconventional threats.