Canada’s Eyes in the Skies over Iraq Get Sharper

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Article / July 14, 2016

When CP-140 Aurora aircrew flying over Iraq share points of interest with their Coalition partners, they now have a tool that allows the coalition to engage those points of interest with even greater accuracy.

Members of the Long Range Patrol (LRP) Detachment of the Air Task Force (ATF) say this added accuracy allows Coalition aircraft to engage ISIL targets more quickly, more effectively and in a way where safety is optimized for both friendly forces and non-combatants alike.

“We can share highly accurate and timely information regarding points of interest with our Coalition partners,” said a member of the LRP Detachment. “It helps keep friendly troops safe while minimizing the possibility of collateral damage, which is something of the greatest concern to the Government of Iraq and the Coalition.”

The CP-140 Aurora aircraft deployed on Operation IMPACT have conducted over 500 surveillance missions since they started flying on October 30, 2014 in support of the Global Coalition fighting ISIL. With their array of sensors and skilled aircrew, the LRP Detachment has helped the Coalition find, develop and deliberately engage targets which have had a strategic effect on ISIL. CP-140s flying over Iraq have also found targets on the battlefield for other Coalition aircraft to strike in order to provide air support to Iraqi Security Forces – a process called ‘dynamic targeting’.

Up until now, making sure that everyone was looking at the same thing the aircrew had identified took time, skill and intense coordination. One aircrew likened it to looking at the ground through a straw and trying to guide other coalition assets towards the target, who themselves were looking at the ground through their own straws.

“It was more difficult because you had to provide qualitative information to get people onto what you were looking at,” said a member of the ATF headquarters. “You really had to ‘talk’ people onto the target in cities because so many buildings look alike.”

Enter the Precision Strike Suite – Special Operations Forces (PSS-SOF) software. PSS-SOF is already in use by the Royal Canadian Artillery among their Joint Terminal Attack Controllers to guide indirect fire onto targets with significant accuracy. It works with sensory data and provides accurate Global Positioning System coordinates to what the operator sees on the screen.

Identified as an urgent requirement by the ATF last January, PSS-SOF was tested, approved, installed and aircrew were trained to operate it in a little over four months. One CP-140 aircrew noted how they can do their job more quickly and with greater confidence.

“What used to take minutes is now a matter of seconds,” he said. “When I give somebody the coordinates of what I’m looking at, I know they will be looking at the same thing. More accurate means safer for friendly forces and civilians – you hit only what you want to hit.”

The CP-140 Aurora is historically a maritime surveillance aircraft that worked jointly with the Royal Canadian Navy. While CP-140s were used as surveillance platforms over primarily coastal areas of Libya during Operation MOBILE in 2011, Operation IMPACT is the first environment where it has been used in a purely overland surveillance role. The integration of PSS-SOF into the aircraft’s sensory toolbox continues the improvement of overland surveillance capabilities of the CP-140.

“From a combined arms point of view, having that kind of capability on an airborne surveillance platform is very valuable to Canadian joint operations,” said one of the Royal Canadian Artillery instructors deployed to Operation IMPACT to conduct in-theatre training on PSS-SOF. “The more accurate the information provided the better.”

 The integration of the PSS-SOF software is one of a number of new capabilities being integrated as part of the LRP Roadmap devised for the CP-140. Future software and hardware capabilities will be integrated in the near future as the aircraft evolves in its overland role and increases its overall mission effectiveness.

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