Gorgon Stare test uncovers major glitches

Test memo reveals current system unreliable and ineffective

Gorgon Stare, a sophisticated video capture system with nine cameras that provides wide-angle surveillance images, has significant operational glitches and is not ready to be fielded, reports Colin Clark at Defense Buzz.

The recommendation that Gorgon Stare needs further improvements because it works less than half of the time was made by the 53rd Wing of the Air Combat Command at Eglin Air Force Base in an operational utility evaluation.

Gorgon Stare is built by Sierra Nevada Corp. under the direction of the Air Force’s 645th Aeronautical Squadron known as “Big Safari.” The new video capture system has been on the fast track for deployment to Afghanistan where its developers believe it would offer a significant improvement in drone intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities to United States and coalition forces.

Winslow Wheeler, a former congressional defense budget expert now with the Center for Defense Information, obtained the test memo, which indicated that Gorgon Stare was ineffective and unreliable because it could not readily find and identify targets — particularly human targets — and could not reliably locate what it sees.

The 53rd Wing of the Air Combat Command at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., was tasked with testing Gorgon Stare as part of an operational utility evaluation. The testers reported serious deficiencies and recommended that Gorgon Stare not be deployed to Afghanistan or anywhere else at present.

Specific problems uncovered in the testing were:

  • The imagery was marginal to poor, depending on the mode of use. Infrared imagery in particular was poor.
  • Some of the imagery was subject to gaps between stitching areas; that is, where the camera images meet.
  • Image quality is below what users have come to expect from video obtained from existing cameras installed on Predator and Reaper drones.
  • Time delay problems transmitting from drone to ground.
  • High-quality imagery takes too long to download from the computer pod after flight, which impairs the timeliness of forensic analysis.
  • Problems encountered regarding the accuracy of location coordinates.
  • Limited bandwidth impaired data downloads.

Big Safari disputed the test results, claiming that the tests were unfair as they probed performance areas that were beyond the specifications for the system.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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