Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, November 4, 2004

Eagle Vision hookup expands military's view of the Pacific

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

HICKAM AIR FORCE BASE — As kahu Kordell Kekoa sprinkled water in a traditional blessing, the more than 12-foot satellite receiving dish rotated on its axis and pointed up into the blue sky.

Members of the Hawai'i Air National Guard take part in a blessing ceremony for the Eagle Vision satellite camera system.

Jeff Widener • The Honolulu Advertiser

Passing unseen 450 miles above was the Satellite Pour l'Observation de la Terre 4, or SPOT 4.

Down below, the dish locked on to the satellite and used it to take panoramic photos of O'ahu that were processed and displayed on nearby monitors a couple of hours later.

Kekoa yesterday told more than 100 assembled for the unveiling of the Hawai'i Air National Guard's Eagle Vision system that they are now getting a portion of God's view of the world.

"We think we are on the cutting edge of technology when he's had this view all along," Kekoa said.

For the Hawai'i Air National Guard, it is a picture-taking capability right out of the heavens. The more than $16 million mobile system gives Air Force commanders a better view of the Pacific for battle planning and humanitarian assistance.

A pass over North Korea can yield photos to Pacific commanders as the satellite arcs over Hawai'i.

The satellite images provide detail down to buildings and people, but not so great as to be able to make out faces. The RADARSAT satellite can look through clouds.

"If there's any crisis anywhere in the Pacific, that's where we'd go to collect images and produce reconnaissance information," said Master Sgt. Reid Tsubota, superintendent of the system.

The Hawai'i-based satellite system is the nation's fifth. Other locations include Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Colorado Springs, Reno-Tahoe International Airport, and South Carolina.

State adjutant Maj. Gen. Robert G.F. Lee said the "$16 million investment is not only good for the Hawai'i Air National Guard and Pacific Air Force, but also the entire state."

Lee said the imagery that can be acquired using Eagle Vision has applications for natural disasters like the Manoa Valley flooding, which damaged more than 100 homes.

"Yesterday, we had to crank up a Black Hawk helicopter and fly into the deep recesses of Manoa Valley" to see if there were landslides that could cause further flooding, Lee said.

"We can now do this with Eagle Vision and save the flying hours of a Black Hawk and crew for a more important mission," Lee said.

A downlink with the Coast Guard will allow it to spot the oil slick from a small engine of a pleasure craft anywhere in the state of Hawai'i.

"With this picture, they can divert the helicopter, C-130 aircraft or Coast Guard cutter to check things out instead of flying routine patrols," Lee added.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources is interested in using satellite imagery to pinpoint the spread of invasive plant species, and Eagle Vision also can be used to track typhoon patterns.

The Hawai'i Air Guard's 201st Combat Communications Group, which runs the Eagle Vision system, has the lead for all combat communications for the Pacific in Hawai'i.

Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawai'i, said Eagle Vision technology "will vastly increase the capabilities of our Hawai'i Air National Guard."

Satellites including SPOT 2, 4 and 5, IKONOS, RADARSAT and Indian Remote Sensing (IRC) 1C and 1D can be accessed, providing photo capabilities every 90 minutes, officials said. One of the Eagle Vision systems is in Bahrain providing battlefield imagery in Iraq for troops in the Baghdad and Fallujah areas.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.