820th SFG to use new enemy-locating technology

  • Published
  • By Capt. Dustin Hart
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
The 820th Security Forces Group once again is proving to be on the cutting edge of military technology after recently being selected as the first Air Force unit to purchase and deploy the Ground Situational Awareness Toolkit.

The GSAT kit, consisting of the Scan Eagle unmanned aerial system and ShotSpotter gunfire acquisition technology, will allow the group to identify possible enemy firing locations by tracking where shots are coming from.

"The 820th (SFG) is excited to be at the forefront of this initiative," said Col. John Decknick, 820th SFG commander. "This system brings additional technology to the ground war-fighter and keeps us at the cutting edge of technological improvements. Employing the GSAT system in the combat zone will greatly expand our combat capability and, more importantly, help bring our Airmen home safely."

The colonel added the speed at which the technology was acquired by the group is a testament to the "Herculean" efforts by a team of people from the Air Force acquisitions program at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab at Nellis AFB, Nev.; Force Protection Battlelab at Lackland AFB, Texas; and Air Combat Command security forces and operations directorates at Langley AFB, Va.

While the 820th SFG will be the first Air Force unit to conduct a user evaluation on the GSAT system, its two components, Scan Eagle and ShotSpotter, are not new to the military. Scan Eagle has logged more than 20,000 hours, supporting Navy and Marine missions in Iraq, and ShotSpotter is used by both law enforcement and military agencies.

ShotSpotter uses acoustic sensors, located on the backs of patrolling Airmen and Humvees, to detect the location of enemy muzzle blasts and, in some cases, the path of the fired projectiles. This information is then passed to on-the-ground commanders for analysis. It is also shared with an overhead Scan Eagle, which then directs its advanced cameras to the area, giving a picture of the enemy's location.

Scan Eagle, which measures four feet long with a 10-foot wingspan, is launched by a catapult system and has an approximate 20-hour flight time.

"This technology will allow us to observe enemy location and activity and conduct long-term surveillance and reconnaissance," 2nd Lt. Ben Worley, an 820th SFG intelligence officer, said of the GSAT's capabilities. "It also provides better situational awareness (of the battlespace) to our commanders.

"With the variety of missions we conduct while deployed, having an overhead capability allows us to better prosecute our mission and protect our Airmen," he added.

To prepare for GSAT's arrival in early March, the group is sending three Airmen to Clovis, N.M., in January for eight weeks of training on how to operate the system. This will also include how to maintain GSAT, allowing the 820th SFG to be self-sufficient.

In order to fully use GSAT on its own, the 820th SFG is also sending two maintainers and an intelligence Airman to Clovis to attend shorter training courses on maintaining the systems and analyzing the information they provide.

Once training is completed and GSAT arrives at Moody, the 820th SFG will begin incorporating it into the unit's ground training. This will also allow the group to evaluate the GSAT while performing the various missions it may encounter when deployed.

After the group concludes its evaluation of GSAT, the equipment will be matched with one of the unit's deploying squadrons.