Air Force Link News Article

AF creates UAV office by Sue Baker

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, (AFNS) -- A new chapter of Aeronautical Systems Center's defense acquisition history began Nov. 13 with the creation of another system program office -- one that will change the very nature of joint defense operations and contingency warfare.

The Joint Endurance Unmanned Aerial Vehicle SPO, under the direction of Lt. Col. Thomas J. Di Nimo, will acquire the Air Force's newest weapon system, an unmanned aerial vehicle, designed to take American fighting forces farther out of harm's way, while giving them better ways to "see" and respond to enemy operations from a distance.

The new SPO will be part of the center's Reconnaissance Aircraft Systems Group, commanded by Col. Craig Cooning. His organization is responsible for cradle-to-grave management of all Air Force airborne reconnaissance programs, including the U-2; SR-71; Rivet Joint, an RC-135 aircraft modification program; and special-mission C-130 aircraft.

"UAVs hold great promise to perform many theater reconnaissance operations--from surveillance to targeting and bomb damage assessment," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Ronald R. Fogleman in an Aug. 12 Secretary of the Air Force policy letter. "Beyond these, we are contemplating their use in a variety of other operations, from peacekeeping or peace enforcement to counterdrug, counterrorism, peacetime surveillance and even strike operations."

In the past, the Air Force had reservation about UAVs for a variety of reasons, the general said. "We are now impressed by the convergence of technological advances in computers, flight controls, lightweight materials, advanced electric motors and communications packages that will make modern UAVs extremely effective," Fogleman said.

UAVs will contribute much to the service's goal of "information dominance" in a wide variety of missions and roles, according to the general. "They will provide joint warfighters the right information at the right time to enable them to fight and win," Fogleman said. "They will play an important role in the complex battle-space information process by helping to reduce to cycle time from 'task' to 'act' to 'reassess'."

UAVs are part of the Air Force's overall vision for tactical reconnaissance. Because the Air Force's last RF-4C reconnaissance aircraft retired Oct. 1, the service will place a number of reconnaissance pods on Air National Guard F- 16s later this year, according to the general. This will maintain the service's surveillance capability while it determines future requirements and works to field such systems as the Joint Surveillance and Target Acquisition System, Advanced Tactical Air Reconnaissance System, Space Based Infrared System, and UAVs. (Baker is assigned to ASC public affairs)