Penetrating Air ISR under Review

The Pentagon is examining how much penetrating airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capability it needs to deal with anti-access, area-denial scenarios, said Gen. Robert Kehler, head of US Strategic Command. “I am personally of the belief that we will need some kind of penetrating air ISR,” he told reporters in Washington, D.C., on July 24. So far, however, “budget circumstances [have] put us in a place where we can’t make final decisions,” he said. Kehler said the evolution of potential threats to US space-based information-gathering assets “is forcing us to go back and look again at how much penetrating air ISR we are going to need and what that should look like.” Questions influencing the discussion include: how much legacy ISR—designed for permissive environments—the Pentagon will retain, and the extent to which future strike platforms will also collect ISR information, he said. The Pentagon uses satellites today for the penetrating ISR mission, said Kehler. “We rely on that from orbit, and how we lash that into A2/AD environments is a part of this conversation,” he said. STRATCOM, as one of its functions, oversees the allocation of ISR assets in support of combatant commanders.