America’s military base at Al Udeid has been upgraded to make it more advanced and a technological marvel.
“It’s state-of-the-art but too slow for the future,” said General David Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, who is visiting the centre at Qatar’s Al Udeid Air Base this week with Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson.
The base is undergoing various changes, the combined Air Operations Center, known in military-speak as the “CAOC,” is grappling with a dizzying amount of data and intelligence flowing in from sources like satellites, drones, radar and US aircraft flying over Middle East hot spots and bombing Islamic State positions.
New software is being developed in partnership with the Pentagon’s Silicon Valley arm, known as the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, the goal of which is to speed delivery of technology to the front lines.
“I saw an opportunity to provide a tool to our airmen in a short period of time that would not only improve our effectiveness but our efficiency,” Harrigian said in an interview, adding that the effort got underway last year.
An application which is being developed simplifies the way the Air Force plans air strikes against targets, consolidating data from separate programs that, as of now, do not synch with each other.
Another software tool which has been already introduced allows refuelling of US warplanes while they are in flight.
Previously, war planners used an excel worksheet and a white board to pair US warplanes with specialised “tanker” jets that can refuel them in the air.
It used to take a planning team a combined 35 to 40 hours each day to get the job done. With the new software, that time has been cut in half, the Air Force said.The so-called “tanker planning tool” was also developed in months, not years, something that is an anomaly in the Pentagon’s often laborious acquisition system.
“The standard acquisition system was not going to get us the product we wanted,” Harrigian said, explaining that his own team could sit next to the coders, telling them what they needed the tanker planning tool to do.
He said that his team in Qatar has taken steps to develop the way it reviews intelligence data, helping him to view battlefield trends in new ways.
“I said, ‘I need a better understanding of a pattern of life of what the Syrian and Russian (integrated air defences) are doing,’” Harrigian said. “So those guys reached back to locations in the States where they had basically the software and infrastructure.”