Global Hawk Collects Reconnaissance Data During Haiti Relief Efforts





Global Hawk Collects Reconnaissance Data During Haiti Relief Efforts

By Mike Mitchell
Global Hawk Collects Reconnaissance Data During Haiti Relief Efforts  

January 17, 2010 - An RQ-4 Global Hawk is providing imagery to determine the extent of damage to earthquake-stricken Haiti and usability of its infrastructure, an Air Force official said during a Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable. "A lot of images of destroyed buildings," said Col. Bradley G. Butz, the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing vice commander. 

They are looking at images of airports to find airfields to land aircraft, he added. The image quality and clarity is good enough whether or not an airfield can accept aircraft. "We've got pretty good coverage of the entire country of Haiti," Colonel Butz said. The Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance unmanned aircraft with an integrated sensor suite that provides worldwide ISR capability. 

The 480th ISR, based at Langley Air Force Base, Va., is providing its images to U.S. Southern Command officials for use by whomever needs the images, Colonel Butz said. The objective is mass distribution to people and organizations that need the images to support relief and recovery operations.

An aerial view of earthquake victims gathering in a soccer field in Haiti from an Air Force Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. Aerial images are providing planners valuable situation awareness as they coordinate U.S. military support to the Haiti relief effort.

These images can help determine the level of destruction since aerial images of Haiti exist from June 2009. Comparing the June 2009 and the January 2010 can give an indication of the extent of the disaster. Without context "we just don't know the impact," the colonel said. In addition, the Global Hawk provides assistance to Soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division who are deploying to Haiti. The Global Hawk is providing images of where the Soldiers are deploying to help them prepare for their mission, Colonel Butz said. 

The Global Hawk flew 14 hours Jan. 14, providing between 400 to 700 images, the colonel said. It is flying daily out of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The colonel said the Global Hawk will continue providing Haitian overflight support as long as the president requests. This is the first use of the Global Hawk in a disaster relief mission in the Caribbean, according to the colonel. All Defense Department resources in the Western Hemisphere are available for assisting Haiti.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, briefed reporters on the situation in Haiti. By the end of the weekend, 9,000 to 10,000 American service members will in Haiti or afloat offshore.  "The key is to get the food and the water in there as quickly as possible so that people don't - in their desperation - turn to violence or lead to the security situation deteriorating," the secretary said. "But at this point, other than some scavenging and minor looting, our understanding is the security situation is pretty good."  


This is a whole-of-government effort by the United States and also is an international effort, Gates said. U.S. soldiers and Marines will aid the 7,000-member United Nations force and about 2,000 police in providing security. "We are clearly in a position to do more than others, partly by our proximity and partly by our capabilities," Gates said. The key is coordinating the entire effort, he told reporters, and he said the coordination among the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Homeland Security Department, the Coast Guard and the Defense Department "has proceeded very well."  

"Shortly after the devastating earthquake, [the Defense Department] mobilized to save lives and ease the suffering of the victims," Gates said. Army and naval forces, disaster-response teams, portable hospitals, K-9 search-and-rescue teams and relief and medical supplies are streaming in from many nations, Mullen said.  "In this situation, the military is best able to supply security, search-and-rescue capabilities, potable water and medical facilities," the chairman said. The Navy's USS Higgins has joined Coast Guard cutters off Haiti to provide support.  

On Friday morning, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrived outfitted with 19 helicopters, 51 hospital beds, three operating rooms, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water per day production capability and a significant capacity to deliver disaster-relief supplies. "A company from the 82nd Airborne Division is on the ground to provide security and also distribution to meet those needs."  

The USS Normandy and the USS Underwood also will arrive shortly, followed by the USS Bataan, USS Fort McHenry and USS Carter Hall carrying the Marines of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. The hospital ship USNS Comfort -- with hundreds of medical personnel, medical capabilities and medical supplies -- will arrive off the coast by the end of next week, Mullen said. These ships, aircraft and troops "also deliver hope, although it seems that supplies and security cannot come quickly enough," the chairman said.  

Gates said he's not worried that the aid effort will be seen as a threat or as a U.S. power grab. "Given the role that we will have in delivering food, water and medical help to people, my guess is the reaction will be one of relief at seeing Americans delivering this kind of help," he said. The United States also is only one of many countries sending aid and personnel to Haiti. Brazil, for example, has many personnel in Haiti and is sending a large amount of aid, he noted.

(See Airmen Deploy To Aid Earthquake Hit Island Of Haiti)

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