Blue Eyes in the Sky

The Air Force plans to continue supporting US Central Command with the Blue Devil Block 1 persistent intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance system in Fiscal 2013, said Steven Walker, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for science, technology, and engineering. Blue Devil Block 1 is a suite of high-definition imagery sensors mounted on modified executive aircraft, reported Wired Magazine. Walker said it represents the first-ever integration of wide-area and narrow-field-of-view sensors cued by advanced signals intelligence sensors. “Warfighter feedback on the situational awareness provided by Blue Devil Block 1 has been overwhelmingly positive,” he told House defense authorizers last week. The technology has been “instrumental” in identifying several “high-value individuals” and improvised explosive device emplacements, noted Walker. In Fiscal 2013, the Air Force will support CENTCOM with four Blue Devil Block 1 sorties per day, he said. What is less clear is the future of Blue Devil Block 2, which would combine the sensor suite in a large airship. Last month, Lt. Gen. Larry James, deputy chief of staff for ISR, said the Air Force is mulling whether it can afford to keep such “boutique” ISR capabilities like the Blue Devil airship. (Walker’s prepared testimony)