I finished reading your November/December editorial about drone operations [“Fix drone operations”].
As for bringing the exploitation cell together with the Predator/ Reaper units, I don’t see that happening. For the National Guard, the units were designated to be either intelligence wings or MQ-1 Predator reconnaissance wings or reconnaissance groups. The states are not going to let these wings merge to another state.
The problem here is that from the beginning of their training, the Predator/Reaper guys do not attend training with the Distributed Common Ground System processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) troops. The guys go into the ground control station and practice their mission with the pilot taking on the role of the aircraft commander and imagery analyst when he or she is talking to the simulated (or real) joint terminal attack controller. When the crews finish their training and go to the field, they are all of a sudden told there are exploitation people also watching and sending them information. The pilots, of course, couldn’t care less what the PED people think. The pilots see it as their mission. The sensor operator is there to do what the pilot tells him to.
The only way anything can be changed is if the schoolhouses where the PED troops go to school are incorporated into the flying schools, meaning March Air Reserve Base, Calif., for MQ-1 Predator crews, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M., for Predator and MQ-9 Reaper crews, and now Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, N.Y., for Reapers.
The flight crews and PED troops should learn from the beginning the essence of working as a team. The pilots have to be taught that they are not imagery analysts and therefore should not make the call on women and children. The PED people also have to be incorporated into the kill-chain so they can call an abort on a Hellfire missile attack or laser-guided bomb run-in when women and children are present.
(This letter appeared in the January-February issue of C4ISR Journal.)