[Back]

[Index]

[Next]

Operation Desert Storm:
Evaluation of the Air Campaign
(Letter Report, 06/12/97, GAO/NSIAD-97-134)


TARGET SENSOR TECHNOLOGIES Appendix IX




   RADAR
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix IX:1

Radar systems vary from older, low-resolution ground-mapping radars
on the F-111F and B-52 to much newer, high-resolution target
detection synthetic aperture radar on the F-15E.  The basic forms of
radar are pulse and continuous-wave types.  Both detect targets by
transmitting radio waves and then searching for return radio waves
reflected from those targets in order to determine information about
the location and speed of targets. 


   ELECTRO-OPTICAL
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix IX:2

Electro-optical systems exist as a sensor on munitions, such as the
EO version of the Maverick missile, and as separate systems, such as
night vision goggles.  EO-guided weapons carry a miniature TV sensor
or camera in the nose that senses targets that provide suitable
visible (dark or light) contrasts.  Night-viewing systems operate by
magnifying the tiny amount of light available from the sky, even in
the darkest night. 


   INFRARED
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix IX:3

Imaging infrared systems are sometimes integral to the aircraft (Pave
Tack, TRAM, and FLIR/DLIR on the F-111F, A-6E, and F-117,
respectively) and are sometimes a part of a pod or munition attached
to the exterior of the aircraft (such as LANTIRN for the F-15E and
F-16 and the IR version of Maverick on the A-10).  IR systems lock
onto targets by focusing on heat sources.  Imaging IR systems are
virtually infrared TV cameras, which create a heat image of a target
and then rely on signal processing to lock onto a designated part of
the heat image, rather than simply the hottest part of the image, as
nonimaging IR systems do. 


   OTHER SENSOR SYSTEMS
-------------------------------------------------------- Appendix IX:4

Other sensor systems using the technologies discussed above were
employed in Desert Storm, and other technologies were used to
supplement, or supplant, the systems described above.  These systems
were not integral to the aircraft, themselves, nor to the munitions
carried by them; they were mostly either on separate platforms used
before or concurrently with the strike aircraft, or they consisted of
additional equipment employed by pilots.  In the former category were
target images provided by intelligence or reconnaissance sensors and
sometimes made available to aircrew at the mission planning stage. 
Pilots of virtually all aircraft reported that receipt of such images
and target planning materials were extremely important for mission
planning, target study, and mission success, although needed
materials were often unavailable or of poor quality.  Pilots of
aircraft delivering guided munitions stated this was especially true
for them because they were often tasked to attack a specific
building, or a section of a building, and they needed the aids and
cues available in target images to ensure accurate selection of the
desired aimpoint. 

While hardly a technology, a key "sensor system" was human vision. 
Although limited to clear weather, pilots from several aircraft
reported confidence that they could hit a target, even with unguided
bombs, as long as they could see it.  At night, some pilots attempted
to target visually by using illumination flares.  Varying success
with this method was reported by some A-10 and F/A-18 pilots, while
A-6E pilots said they found it nearly impossible to find targets
using flares. 

Another system used by pilots, especially those in aircraft without
infrared systems (A-10 and F/A-18), was handheld binoculars during
the day and night vision goggles at night.  With binoculars, pilots
reported varying levels of success in finding and identifying targets
from medium and high altitude during the day.  Binoculars required
unimpeded clear weather conditions and imposed a high workload on
pilots in single seat aircraft.  Pilots also reported that night
vision goggles were ineffective for identifying valid targets on the
ground at 10,000 feet or higher.