Tyndall Summit provides key leaders with "Eagle Vision" for upcoming disaster response
By Capt. Laura Ropelis, 1st Air Force (AFNORTH)
/ Published July 25, 2008
TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --
Key leaders united for a three-day summit here Tuesday to showcase satellite imagery that brings life-saving images to civilian and military first responders.
Commander of First Air Force, Air Force Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Hank Morrow and Continental U.S. Northern Region Deputy Commander Brig. Gen. Andre Viens brought active duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, government and civilian leaders from Washington D.C. and around the country together to see the 'Eagle Vision IV' system here and explore more effective networking and support capabilities for leaders in their common mission of disaster response.
"The 'Eagle Vision' Summit was an incredible learning experience and a great opportunity to coordinate with a wide variety of agencies to assure this imagery is put in the hands of first responders quickly, when and where they need it," said General Viens.
The beauty of Eagle Vision is that it's an unclassified system that provides imagery to those ffirst responders who need it quickly, said Jerry Brooks, director of the Eagle Vision program. Disaster response personnel have other platforms to gather information on catastrophe areas, such as Midwest flooding, major hurricane impact sites or western wildfires, according to Brooks.
"But satellite imagery provides a view of broad areas of an event, which is important when you are talking about thousands of acres of damage," said Brooks.
Although the South Carolina crew was deployed to Tyndall Air Force Base to educate leaders on the program, the team went into operational mode to provide 'Eagle Vision' images of Hurricane Dolly, which recently hit the Texas east coast.
A picture like this can say a thousand words. This broad area imagery was provided daily to California wildfire planners and disaster recovery personnel. The responders could accurately track how the fire moved course enabling firefighters to focus their efforts and assets to the hot spots. This cut response times and ultimately allowed first responders get to the fires quicker saving lives and property.
"We received the 'Eagle Vision' system in the fall of 2007. Eagle Vision III was fully operational in June 2008 when the California fires began," said the commander of the California Air National Guard Maj. Gen. Dennis G. Lucas.
"We were able to use the imagery to predict fires for the next day. It provided a new capability critical to directing or repositioning fire crew aerial attacks," said General Lucas.
Eagle Vision systems are located at four sites in the U.S., with up to seven satellites accessible to meet the 24/7 demand. These systems are operated and maintained by Air National Guard personnel from California, South Carolina, Hawaii and Alabama. There is also an active duty unit in Germany.
'Eagle Vision' was conceptualized in 1990 as a wartime asset. The program began with only one site and has expanded to the five computerized, deployable systems due to demand to assure imagery is readily available when and where needed. After hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma, its value was realized here in the U. S. for disaster response and mitigation. Recently, 'Eagle Vision' missions have expanded into other areas such as theater cooperation initiatives in the Pacific area.
The system has been especially busy this year. Besides supporting disaster response personnel for the recent U. S. tornadoes, Midwest flooding and California fires, the imagery was used globally for responders to Cyclone Nargis in Burma, recent major earthquakes in China, space and maritime test and evaluation and during numerous disaster planning exercises.
As the U.S. Air Force organization here that provides defense support to civil authorities, air defense for the U.S., shuttle support, and search and rescue support to all states, Air Forces Northern maintains real-time visibility and networking capability with federal, government and civilian agencies.
"The American people deserve to benefit from the best technology the government and Air Force can offer during disasters or times of need," said General Morrow. "First Air Force will continue to look for opportunities like Eagle Vision to provide the decision tools required to assist the leadership of local, state and federal governments in order to ensure success for the American public."