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 480th ISR Wing
480th ISR Wing Improves Coalition Forces Information Sharing

Posted 8/3/2011   Updated 8/3/2011 Email story   Print story


by Staff
480th ISR Wing

8/3/2011 - Langley Air Force Base, VA. -- Members of the 480th Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing developed a state-of-the-art information sharing system enabling them to send and receive data to coalition partners in an easily discoverable and retrievable way.

The system, called Unified Collections Operations Reporting Network or UNICORN, is used by the 480th ISR Wing to mission manage, track and retrieve ISR information. The wing tailored UNICORN to specifically aid coalition partners in discovering and retrieving United States Air Force ISR information. This tailored version is called Enhanced-UNICORN.

The Enhanced-UNICORN coalition project began in March to answer the need to share actionable intelligence to coalition forces in Afghanistan. It took 10 weeks to complete from the time it was envisioned to the time it was fielded on the coalition network. Enhanced-UNICORN provided the International Security Assistance Force the capability to see U.S. Air Force ISR mission status, track ISR product flow and retrieve ISR products.

"The improved search capability of Enhanced-UNICORN for coalition partners makes it easy for coalition forces to find ISR information by using easy-to-understand queries," said Col. Paul Nelson, 480th ISR Wing commander. "It provides our coalition forces real-time access to our collection decks, status of our tracking, and high-quality digital imagery, along with contextual reports that correlate to mission and platform."

When the need arose again in late May to share information with NATO allies supporting Operation Unified Protector, the wing tailored the Enhanced-UNICORN system specifically for this operation. It took wing members less than three days to field the system on the NATO network, with the assistance of the Information Sharing and Partner Engagement Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence.

"The creation of this 480th system was a major accomplishment," said Nelson. "Our number one priority is being responsive to our joint and coalition forces needs, to ensure intelligence reaches supported units in time for it to be of some use."

The 480th team did not stop at fielding Enhanced-UNICORN, but also worked with others to implement a hardware-to-hardware, cross-domain, secure ISR information sharing capability called CENTAUR, or Cross-Domain Enterprise All Source User Repository. CENTAUR takes the "man out-of-the-loop" and reduces the time from collection to reporting from hours to minutes. It also provides an actionable, easily discoverable imagery for coalition forces.

"We teamed daily with OUSD(I), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, United States European Command, and Raytheon-Garland to get this much needed system operational within weeks," said Don Hudson, 480th ISR Wing technical director. "The delivery of actionable intelligence within minutes would not have been possible without their assistance."

"The lessons learned developing and fielding UNICORN and CENTAUR will aid the Air Force's Distributed Common Ground Systems when sharing information between service DCGS units, multiple combatant commands, and coalition forces providing one seamless flow of information," said Lt. Gen. Larry D. James, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Headquarters United States Air Force, Washington D.C.

Next the wing will team with the Air Force Research Lab and other agencies to investigate how similar systems and solutions from the wing can be used in support of future coalition operations.

"UNICORN and CENTAUR are game changers for joint and coalition operations," said Nelson.

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