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News > Angel Fire surveillance a key tactical asset
Angel Fire surveillance a key tactical asset

Posted 1/27/2009   Updated 1/27/2009 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Stacia Zachary
Team Eglin Public Affairs

1/27/2009 - EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla.  -- It all starts with an idea. Whether it's Post-it notes, Band-Aids or Velcro, all were ideas that simplified life. 

Angel Fire began as one of those ideas. 

The Angel Fire concept allows aircraft to watch over ground troops to detect snipers on rooftops or enemy mortar teams six blocks down lobbing a barrage of mortars at them. This bird's eye-view of the battlefield provides real-time intelligence to troops on the ground. 

The warfighter identifies a flaw or deficiency in some aspect of getting the mission completed. The people at home use those "wish list" items to create new technologies to better protect warfighters and safeguard future operations. It is the convergence of these two principles that are having a direct impact on the emerging technologies in current and future military operations. 

Col. Mark D. Koch, Senior Reservist to the Director, Munitions, Air Force Research Laboratory, witnessed firsthand the impact Angel Fire is having on the ground for troops in deployed areas.

"Angel Fire is the first system of its kind to provide real-time, persistent, wide area intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to a ground commander at a tactical level," said Colonel Koch. "Angel Fire provided 'Google Earth and TiVo-like capabilities on steroids' to the ground commander." 

Angel Fire, primarily developed by engineers at the AFRL and Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., is a wide field of view persistent surveillance aerial collection asset. The technology was designed to provide a dedicated near-real-time imagery sensor and distribution system to commanders and units at the tactical level. 

After capability exercises in California demonstrated the system's ability to provide dedicated persistent surveillance, the Marine Corps sponsored the program for use in the Operation Iraq Freedom theater of operations. 

The colonel received the Bronze Star medal Jan. 13, for meritorious achievements as the 922nd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Flight commander, al Asad Air Base, Iraq, from Feb. 2 to Sept. 23, 2008. 

Colonel Koch spearheaded the transfer of authority to ground force leadership for continued employment of Angel Fire. His efforts led directly to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets, identifying improvised explosive devices in the most dangerous areas of the Al Anbar province, saving Coalition and Iraqi civilian lives.

"I am humbled to have watched my young people overcome literally hundreds of obstacles to fly over 600 combat support missions with four aircraft in seven months," said Colonel Koch. "I had great people working for me and with me to provide the infantry Marine real-time persistent wide area ISR he's never enjoyed before."

According to AFRL Angel Fire program, "TiVo-like" rewind function enables access to archived combat data in order to facilitate forensic and post-event analysis. This capability provides value to the tactical commander operating in an irregular warfare environment.

"We watched several improvised explosive devices explode and were able to help the Marines determine where they came from," the colonel said. "We also provided USMC ground commanders surveillance of their units in the field as they patrolled different areas of operation which enabled them to watch their flanks and identify potential trouble before it developed." 

On top of tactical operations, Angel Fire also enabled ground commanders to monitor different civilian events like protests and the Al Anbar Provincial Change of Control ceremony to identify potential trouble spots before they got out of control.

"A young infantry Marine was relating a patrol he was on in an urban area when he got into a tight spot, he looked up and said he 'took comfort knowing Angel was watching over me,'" said Colonel Koch. "Comments like the one from the young Marine kept us focused ... no one in the 922nd ERF wanted to fail him."

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