US to deploy airborne network in South Korea
The U.S. Air Force is considering deploying an up-to-date airborne communications network system in South Korea in an effort to boost its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities against North Korean threats, the top American airman here said Friday.
In a speech at a security conference in Seoul, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Remington, commander of the 7th Air Force, said his command is exploring the deployment of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) in the Korean theater, as the network system's effectiveness has been proven in Afghanistan.
BACN is an airborne communications relay and gateway that enables real-time information flow between different tactical data link systems on aircraft and warships, and provides decision-makers with critical battlefield information.
It raises situational awareness by correlating tactical and strategic air pictures. For instance, an Army unit on the ground sees a different picture than an aircrew, but with BACN, both see the same picture.
Due to its operational altitude this system enables ground troops to overcome communications difficulties caused by mountainous terrain.
"We are beginning to explore BACN deployment in this theater," Remington said. "It has already proven very effective in the mountainous regions of Afghanistan."
He said the communications gateway would be connected to the high-altitude Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which the South Korean military is seeking to introduce by 2015 when it takes over operational control of its forces during wartime. The military also plans to deploy four "Peace Eye" airborne early warning systems in coming years.
BACN could also enable key U.S. aircraft, including the F-15, F-16 and F-22, to exchange real-time information on battlefield situations, said the three-star general.
The idea of deploying BACN comes as the South Korean and U.S. militaries are seeking to further boost their ISR capability against North Korean provocation, in line with the postponement of the transfer of wartime operational control from the original 2012 to 2015.
The agreement followed the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship in March as a result of an alleged North Korean torpedo strike.
"The recent sinking of the Cheonan and the tragic loss of our 46 warrior brothers serves as a stern reminder of the persistent threat," Remington said. "We continue to refine plans for the transition of wartime operational control and move forward in the modernization of national defense structures."