AIAA Live Streams from the 51st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting Written 10 January 2013

Lt Gen Larry James Keynotes New Horizons Forum
Lt Gen Larry D. James, deputy chief of staff, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters, United States Air Force, addresses attendees of the New Horizons Forum at the 51st Aerospace Sciences Meeting, in Grapevine, Texas.

By Lawrence Garrett, AIAA Web Editor

Top leaders from government, industry, and academia gathered at the 51st AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, New Horizons Forum, and Aerospace Exhibition, 7-10 January in Grapevine, Texas for a very successful and well-attended event. The conference kicked off Monday, 7 January, with the first of several New Horizons Forum presentations. Introductory remarks by AIAA Executive Director Sandy Magnus were followed by brief remarks by the New Horizons Forum chair, John T. “Tom” Sheridan, VP for national security space at the SI Organization. Sheridan welcomed attendees to Texas and noted that “our collective work has moved the world forward, helped us connect much more closely together, and allowed us to literally reach the stars,” so that “what’s to come next is up to us.” Sheridan then introduced the New Horizons Forum keynote speaker Lt Gen Larry D. James, deputy chief of staff, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters, United States Air Force.

Repeatedly referring to the forum’s theme, “aerospace science – we push the envelope, we solve hard problems, we build the future,” Lt Gen James briefed attendees on U.S. Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) in a Networked World, describing ongoing initiatives and how the Air Force continues to push the envelope in increasing capabilities and solving “hard problems.” He said that Air Force capabilities brought into operation over the past 11 years have been “staggering,” such as the increase of over 400% in unmanned flight ISR over the past year, stating that the program has been “a great success story.”

He noted that the USAF ISR’s worldwide systems consists of five primary nodes, in Virginia, California, Hawaii, Korea, and Germany, along with 50 other associated nodes, allowing the Air Force to process and move this information around the globe seamlessly in support of combat or other operations.

Lt Gen James went on to cover some of the capabilities the Air Force has already “pushed out to the fight.” He called the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) the heart and soul of Air Force ISR, stating, “you can push sensors in to the air, you can push platforms into the air, you can create data, but it is really meaningless unless you have something that is processing that data and something that is turning that data into knowledge that decision makers can use. And that’s what that Distributed Common Ground System is all about.”

Returning to the theme of “solving the hard problems,” he discussed how key programs help solve some of them. He mentioned the Air Force’s multi-INT-fusion program, under which they created a platform called Blue Devil, which can take disparate sources of information and fuse them on board an aircraft, and provide that fused product in near real time to whoever needs it. As James put it, “We can take that single intelligence view, we can take that electrical optical view – or IR view, we can take that full motion video view, that wide area motion imagery view, take all of that into this platform that is airborne, and in near real time put that together in a meaningful manner and push processed information that gives knowledge to the ground force commander, or combatant commander, about what’s going on in the battle space.”

Lt Gen James next touched upon the Air Force’s work with sensors, and the organization's deployment of the “Aces High” program, a program designed to address the “hard problem” of concealment and deception, of homemade explosives, and improvised explosive devices. James said one of the ways the Air Force has tried to address this challenge is through the use of hyperspectral imagery, which comprises the heart and soul of the Aces High platform, and which is designed to help the Air Force find particular things, such as specific chemical compounds, even if they are concealed. Aces High was deployed in Afghanistan about eight months ago, flying as two pods on a Reaper. James said the Aces High program is doing very good work, with very few false positives, providing key information that then allows other personnel to take appropriate action. Lt Gen James said he couldn’t go into a lot of details about the program, but did say that while it has been deployed less than a year, it’s making a tremendous difference in the battle space, and credited “a lot of smart people getting the right algorithms built.”

Lt Gen James briefly mentioned SBIRS Geo being successfully placed into orbit, and then touched upon OPIR (Overhead Persistent Infra Red), referring to it as a high-quality sensor device, and noting that the Air Force is “really on the cutting edge right now of understanding what we can do with this information.” James said that The National Air and Space Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, is leading the charge for the nation on OPIR.

Looking to the future, James reminded the audience that over the last 10-11 years, from an Air Force-ISR perspective, the United States has been operating in a very “airborne permissive environment,” with no real threat to deal with in terms of flying all of the nation’s airborne sensors, whether Global Hawk, predators and reapers, or anything else. As James said, “we can fly those with impunity,” and accomplish the mission. Turning to the U.S.’s new strategy, which focuses more on anti-access, area-denial environments where the airspace is likely to be contested, James noted it's a whole different problem “that we as a nation and we in the Air Force have to think about.”

To that point, the Secretary of the Air Force tasked the organization about a year and half ago with figuring out solutions to these challenges from an ISR perspective. As James explained, “The next conflict we may be in, probably we’re not going to have that air superiority right away over the entire battle space. How do we start to think about operations in that domain.”

In addition to the challenge of contested air space, James also predicted that the network architecture the Air Force relies upon to move around all their data – from the platforms and sensors into the processing nodes and out to the end user – also are likely to be contested in the future. He said the question today is how does the nation build a robust network that can operate in that type of environment, and how does it build a network that will have the capacity to handle all of this data, pointing out that today DCGS processes 20 terabytes of information a day, a number that is only going to grow. Referring to it as “the big data problem,” he said the Air Force is doing a lot of work with industry on this challenge, examining how to handle that scale of data, especially large data objects. Specifically addressing AIAA members in the audience, James said, “the whole network question is one of the future problems that this community certainly is going to have to help us solve.” He added, “bottom line: we have to have the toolsets and analytics to handle all this data.”

Lt Gen James concluded by touching upon the Air Force’s “all sources, all domains” strategy, stating that while the nation over the years has come to rely heavily on the airborne layer of ISR, he believes that the space layer is going to become more and more important, in addition to other layers of intelligence. He said that while the airborne layer will likely still exist, there’s also a cyber layer, human intelligence, and open source intelligence. Citing it as an example of open source intelligence, James said he would almost guarantee that when any major event around the world happens today, the first thing we’re going to see is an iPhone photo posted on the Internet that tells us about it. As James stated, “we as an intelligence community are going to have to figure out how do you harvest all of that information in order to get at the problems that we’ve been given. So all sources, all domains, are very important.”

Following Lt Gen James’ prepared remarks, he generously spent time fielding questions from members of the audience. Other sessions livestreamed from the 51st ASM include:

Monday, 7 January
The AIAA Dryden Lectureship in Research: “Mechanics and Dynamics Research for Advanced Airbreathing Propulsion.”
Speaker: Alan H. Epstein, vice president, technology and environment, Pratt & Whitney Corporation, East Hartford, Conn.

Tuesday, 8 January
New Horizon Forum Plenary Session
Speaker: Maj. Gen. William Neil McCasland, commander, Air Force Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, U. S. Air Force

The AIAA Wright Brothers Lecture in Aeronautics: “Creating the Dream: Development of the 787 Dreamliner.”
Speaker: Thomas J. Cogan, director, airplane product development, Boeing Commercial Airlines (retired), Seattle, Wash.

Wednesday, 9 January
New Horizon Forum Plenary: Establishing Trust in Autonomous Aerosystems: V&V of Complex Adaptive Cyber-Physical Systems
Speaker: Dr. Werner J.A. Dahm, Director, Security & Defense Systems Initiative, Arizona State University

The AIAA von Kármán Lectureship in Astronautics: “From Galileo to Hubble: Mankind’s Extraordinary Journey”
Speaker: James H. Crocker, vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Littleton, Colo.

Thursday, 10 January
New Horizon Forum Plenary Session
Speaker: Joy L. Bryant, vice president and general manager, International Space Station, Space Exploration, Boeing Integrated Defense Systems