Today's Reading Assignment
Outside the U.S. military, few have heard of a system called Rover. It's combination video receiver and laptop computer that allows ground forces to "see" the same thing as a UAV sensor or fighter aircraft targeting pod, and quickly task the drone (or manned aircraft) to strike a target..
Rover's been around for a while, but in the summer of 2003, it was only deployed with a handful of special operations units. Conventional forces in Iraq and Afghanistan only had a limited idea of what the drones were watching, and getting them to engage a target was cumbersome and slow; sometimes 45 minutes passed between the request and the missile being fired from the UAV. Needless to say, a lot of terrorists got away.
That frustrated an Air Force pilot named Greg Harbin, who was then serving as a coordinator for UAV operations at Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia. Harbin, now a Lieutenant Colonel, knew what the answer was: get more Rovers into the field, and train people how to use them.
Today's Los Angeles Times has a terrific story (written by Julian Barnes) on how Lt Col Harbin did just that--changing the way that the Air Force provides close air support--and the day that Rover actually saved Harbin's life.