ISR in an Anti-Access World

The US military’s Asia Pacific “rebalance” will place increasing demands on ISR capability, and the Air Force’s response to those demands will be different than those that have dominated in Southwest Asia in the past decade, said Lt. Gen. Larry James, the service’s ISR chief. “We have asked, for two years now, what ISR has to be in the future [and] how do we operate in an anti-access, area-denial environment,” James told AFA’s Global Warfare Symposium in Los Angeles on Nov. 16. Operations in the past decade in Afghanistan and Iraq have been conducted largely over permissive areas and have been “very air-centric” in nature with extensive use of Predators, Reapers, MC-12s, and Global Hawks, he noted. That will change, said James, as Air Force ISR will become “platform-agnostic and sensor-agnostic and more about the data.” Much like the Cold War, where airborne access over US adversaries’ territory largely didn’t exist, anti-access environments require the melding of information from all ISR domains like airborne, space, human intelligence, cyber, and even crowd-sourcing intelligence (coined “Twitter-int”), he said. The question then becomes how the Air Force is going to manage the enormous amounts of ISR data pouring in, said James.