Intelligence: June 23, 2005

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U.S. Air Force JSTARS radar aircraft are being used to track down terrorist bombers in Iraq. The U.S. Department of Defense demanded that all the services get to work on dealing with terrorist bombers in Iraq, and the air force responded by suggesting that the JSTARS be used to track down the bases of terrorist bombers. This is done by using the JSTARS radar to track where the attackers go after an attack. Many of the attacks take place in sparely populated places, and at night. JSTARS can track vehicles on the ground over a wide area. For example, a single JSTARS can cover all of central Iraq, although its ground radar can only track a smaller area. The JSTARS radar has two modes; wide area (showing a 25 by 20 kilometer area) and detailed (4,000 by 5,000 meters). The radar can see out to several hundred kilometers and each screen full of information could be saved and brought back later to compare to another view (to see what has moved). In this manner, operators could track movement of ground units over a wide area. Operators could also use the detail mode to pick out specific details of whats going on down there, like tracking the movement of vehicles fleeing the scene of an ambush. JSTARS is real good at picking up trucks moving along highways on flat terrain. JSTARS can stay up there for over 12 hours at a time, and two or more JSTARS can operate in shifts to provide 24/7 coverage. There has always been at least one JSTARS operating in Iraq.

In its new role, JSTARS will operate as part of an intelligence team tracking down the hideouts of terrorist bombers. Israeli advisors have pointed out that if you can get to the planners of these attacks, and the technicians that build the bombs, you can greatly reduce the number of bomb attacks. So now, when a bomb goes off, the unit that is hit, as is customary, reports the attack. Quick reaction forces rush to the scene. But the terrorists know this, and usually only fire on the convoy for a short while before getting into their vehicles and speeding off. Many are caught by helicopters that either escort convoys, or patrol the area waiting for an attack to happen. U.S. helicopter gunships have excellent night vision equipment, and if they can get to the scene quickly enough, they can see the attackers, and kill them. Once the gunships have spotted you, you can run, but you cannot get away. Even if the attackers have fled before the gunships show up, they can start sweeping the area for vehicles moving away, and call in ground troops or, increasingly, Iraqi police, who can stop and search vehicles moving away in the area. If its a particularly isolated area, there wont be many vehicles moving around. 

But with a JSTARS up there, the ground radar is monitoring the area within minutes, if not already. This makes it possible for JSTARS to operate in cooperation with other units to track the terrorists to their bases. The intelligence troops  has compiled a lot of data on how the terrorists, and especially the bombers, operate. Using that information in conjunction with JSTARS, and other airborne sensors (gunships, UAVs), its believed that many of the bombing organizations can be taken out. The intel people already know that there are only a few bomber organizations operating in Iraq. That much can be deduced by the vast amount of detail compiled by the CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) teams that scrutinize each attack. Using JSTARS, and tighter integration of all the intel, reconnaissance and combat units, may be what it takes to track down the bomber workshops, and destroy the organizations. It worked for the Israelis, who basically shut down the terrorist bombing campaign of the Palestinian terrorists.

 


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