Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Crisp and clear: Overhead imagery to boost defence awareness

When you can look around the neighbourhood once every 90 minutes instead of once every two days, such awareness represents a game-changer in the way the defence eco-system does its stuff.

Defence planners would be wise to up their game before the assets are shot in orbit over the Equatorial belt because forewarned does not instantly translate to being forearmed.

Lines of reporting and scenario templates must be refreshed in order to maximise the early warning afforded by overhead imagery.

Early awareness counts for nothing if sentinels are asleep at the switch or signs of danger are misread, mistimed or misunderstood.

The radar station guarding Pearl Harbor did its job as advertised. But the radar operators misread the blips that appeared on their screen that fateful Sunday on 7 December 1941 as approaching B-17 bombers on a ferry flight from CONUS. They turned out to be the first strike from Japanese naval aviation.

The Royal Navy warships that sailed into action from Singapore on 8 December 1941 knew full well they were under scrutiny by the picket line of search aircraft that tracked Force Z as it sailed north in the South China Sea. But those at the helm pressed on regardless. They were perhaps emboldened by the fact that no RN capital ships had been sunk by the combined might of two European air  forces in the past two years of war in the Mediterranean theatre where warships were hounded and pounded on the passage to and from Malta and Egypt. So what harm could a supposedly inferior Asian air force inflict in the warships, particularly in an area of operations with friendly shores on British Malaya and Borneo?

The 90-minute refresh rate for overhead imagery is a window of opportunity which shrewd opponent(s) could exploit ruthlessly. Camouflage could conceal. Decoys could deceive. Deception ops could befuddle or desensitise. Every effort would be invested to rob one of such prescience. Overhead assets are virtually untouchable. Base station receivers are not (ditto radars) and could be molested in ways limited only by the creativity of the human mind.

At the heart of the matter are questions that hang over what one should do should danger be detected and you move quickly from Five to One. 

Launch on warning? Do so and one risks reshaping the geo-political landscape with conflict resolution elusive and long standing enmity all but guaranteed in the event of a false positive.  

Launch on impact?  Better cross one's fingers that active and passive defences can withstand the initial onslaught. 

And if a go-order is approved, will this be a full scale all-out effort or some half-hearted light and sound show that does nothing more than rankle the neighbourhood? 

Awareness of potential pitfalls are a first step in scaling up scenario templates and theoretical models to factor in that 90-minute window of opportunity.

That first step has already begun.

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sgcynic said...

Our ex-generals' performance in Parliament and various GLCs are a clear window of what we can expect of potential pitfalls.

The said...

/// Early awareness counts for nothing if sentinels are asleep at the switch or signs of danger are misread, mistimed or misunderstood. ///

Looks like this was what happened with the military radar operators vis-a-vis MH370.

Secure said...

I think SAF knows much more about MH370, especially if we have (and we do 24/7) an AEW platform flying close-by or an MPA and a naval ship at the mouth of the Straits of Malacca.

Many things do not add up.