WASHINGTON — The Air Force will roll out an “ISR flight plan” this spring that will spell out the service’s way forward on future intelligence platforms and key technologies like artificial intelligence, a service official announced Thursday.
The blueprint, which will look at five year increments up until 2035, isn’t about modernizing the service’s ISR enterprise, so much as it is about transforming it to meet future threats, said Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson, Deputy Chief of Staff for ISR.
“My ISR flight plan looks, at how do we actually look at intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance from space, air, cyber?” she told reporters after an Air Force Association event.
“What’s our architecture? What’s the human capital? How do I get to AI and machine learning? And most importantly to me is, what are other assets that we can use besides DoD exquisite [technologies]? We have not really tapped into the vast array that you all tap into every single day with publicly available information.”
Jamieson said she was tapped by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein to do lead the study shortly after assuming her current job in November 2016. The plan is now close to being finalized, and Jamieson’s team plans to begin talking about their findings at a Feb. 2 industry day.
The flight plan will lay out the major hardware acquisitions that the Air Force will need to meet its future requirements, Jamieson said. While she wouldn’t go into specifics, that could include anything from integrating new sensors on existing assets to next-generation unmanned aerial systems to a replacement to the U-2 Dragonlady spyplane.
Just as importantly, it will concentrate on the software needed on the backend to support analysts as they digest the influx of data coming in from platforms on the ground, at sea, in the sky or in space.
The plan also will provide guidance for how to structure the ISR workforce, with Jamieson alluding to a greater focus on automation as a way to mitigate the demands placed on operators.
“As you look as where we’ve come, we’ve done things very manually, with adding airmen to tackle issues, and we can’t continue to do that,” she said.
Valerie Insinna is Defense News' air warfare reporter. She previously worked the Navy/congressional beats for Defense Daily, which followed almost three years as a staff writer for National Defense Magazine. Prior to that, she worked as an editorial assistant for the Tokyo Shimbun’s Washington bureau.