DOD orders remote recon to Kosovo

Faced with the prospect of more ethnic violence in Kosovo, the Defense Department

last week dispatched several high-tech reconnaissance aircraft and a company

of long-range reconnaissance troops to act as the eyes and ears of the 5,900

U.S troops taking part in peacekeeping missions there.

The Pentagon ordered the reconnaissance troops to Kosovo at the request

of Army Brig. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in the

region. The request for more reconnaissance assets comes amid the discovery

of Albanian arms caches and reports of illegal Serbian troop movements along

the Presevo region between Serbia and the province of Kosovo.

Plans call for a Hunter unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to operate out of

Skopje, Macedonia, and a Predator UAV to operate from Tuzla Air Base in

Bosnia, according to Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon. Since the end of the

conflict in Bosnia in 1995, DOD has deployed UAVs to the region regularly,

but DOD removed the UAVs last fall when icy conditions prevented them from

flying. "They seemed to work very well from there and provide broad area

coverage of the Balkans," Bacon told reporters at a press conference last

week.

John Pike, a defense and intelligence analyst with the Federation of

American Scientists, said deploying the UAVs is a prudent move. "I think

the general view is that Kosovo has not stabilized the way Bosnia did and

that things are probably going to get worse before they get better," he

said. "Under such circumstances, the situation awareness provided by UAVs

would certainly be welcomed."

The UAVs will work in close co- operation with 125 reconnaissance troops

dispatched from the Army's V Corps in Heidelberg, Germany, Bacon said. The

troops will operate on foot in small groups and will be equipped with command,

control and communications equipment that will allow them to respond to

electronic queuing from the UAVs when and if military activity is detected.

NATO and the Pentagon relied on UAVs to an unprecedented degree during

last year's 78-day air war in Kosovo. The Navy, for example, used UAVs to

identify potential landing beaches for Marines, locate Yugoslavian naval

vessels along the coast, and locate Serbian radar sites and transmit their

locations to attack aircraft flying in the region. British, French and German

forces also employed UAVs.

Fifteen of the systems were lost to hostile fire during the conflict, including

four U.S. Predators and eight Hunters. Despite the glowing review the systems

received in the Pentagon's official Kosovo After Action Report, released

in December, an Army review published last month identified several concerns

with the systems.

According to a source familiar with the report, the UAV command, control

and communications links were prone to jamming, as were the system's Global

Positioning System navigation links. In addition, data links and ground

control stations continue to have what were described as "developmental

problems," according to the source.

But the Pentagon this year has included funding in its fiscal 2001 budget

proposal for more of the systems and continues to accelerate development

of future UAV systems. The Air Force has requested $109.2 million for additional

UAV procurement, and the Army has requested $37.8 million.

MORE INFO

Typical unmanned aerial vehicle deployment package

* Four 27-foot-long UAVs (specifically Predator) with a range of 400 nauticalmiles

* Ground control system (pilot, payload operator workstations)

* Trojan Spirit II data distribution terminal

Communications

* UHF and Ku-band satellite links for continuous video and control

* C-band line-of-sight data links

* UHF and VHF radio relay links

BY Dan Verton
Apr. 10, 2000

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