CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines -- Typhoons, tsunamis, floods and even mudslides, the Asia-Pacific Region is well-acquainted with the devastation wrought by natural disasters. As populations increase among many Pacific nations, the need for disaster preparedness and response continues to grow. The U.S. and its Pacific allies and partners frequently train together to address the growing need for readiness. When a disaster occurs, readiness can protect and restore the lives of millions of Pacific residents.
Readiness is the exact reason the 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron, a joint team of U.S. Airmen and Soldiers, traveled to Clark Air Base, Philippines. The team brought with them a ground-based satellite imagery system, called Eagle Vision, a collection manager from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii and geospatial and imagery anaylsts from Ft. Shafter, Hawaii. The unit deployed to conduct a Pacific Air Forces Subject Matter Expert Exchange mission together with Philippine Air Force members. The SMEEs will focus on using geospatial satellite imagery, acquired by Eagle Vision, to support Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief efforts.
"Eagle Vision can move all over the world, we can set up our system anywhere and start pulling down imagery from commercial satellites," said Chief Master Sgt. Reid Tsubota, Eagle Vision Superintendent with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
"The HADR applications of this system are incredible. In fact, this is our fourth time here in the Philippines. In 2006 we were initially supporting exercise Balikatan when the Southern Leyte mudslides occurred here. Using Eagle Vision we were able to to provide the Marine Corps' first responders imagery that ultimately helped in the recovery and relief efforts," Tsubota said.
During this fourth visit, Tsubota and his team of 15 Guardsmen, assigned to the 154th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, will work alongside their Philippine counterparts during a series of exchanges focused on the HADR uses Eagle Vision offers. The two-week long Eagle Vision SMEE will culminate with a table-top exercise where Philippine and U.S. military members will simulate a HADR response to a typhoon, a disaster the Philippines experiences. A series of smaller engagements will take place leading up to the simulation. These events are meant to help the military members from both nations discover ways to work better together.
"The U.S. and Philippines have been allies for a long time. HADR is one of the cornerstones of our alliance. And as history has shown us, time and time again, natural disasters will occur in the Pacific. Lives will be impacted and the U.S. and Philippines will come together to bring life-saving aid to those in need," said Lt. Col. Peter Day, the 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron's commander, leading the Eagle Vision team.
"When we think about delivering aid, most of us think about medicine, food, water and so on. What we sometimes overlook is how aid gets to the people. There's a tremendous effort taking place behind-the-scenes. That's where Eagle Vision shines," Tsubota said.
According to Tsubota, Eagle Vision provides decision-quality infomation. Commanders and organizations providing HADR support can use Eagle Vision's imagery for a variety of purposes including: selecting ingress and egress routes for aid; predicting the air mobility requirements of an airfield, such as viability and capacity, for receiving relief; or ascertaining the extent and magnitude of damage caused by a disaster.
"Eagle Vision excels at providing accurate readings. During the Leyte mudslides we outlined before and after images of the affected area. The change detection helped direct resources to the hardest hit locations with the greatest need," said Master Sgt. Chad Tedrowe, an Eagle Vision Data Integration Segment engineer.
Eagle Vision uses commerically available satellites to capture scenes. Scenes are acquired from commercial satellites SPOT6 and SPOT7 and consist of 60 by 60 kilometer swathes where each pixel represents one and a half meters of ground area. Scenes are detailed and customizable to meet mission requirements. Additionally, scenes can include data integration such as geographic coordinates or elevation down to an individual pixel level of detail.
Sharing Eagle Vision's HADR applications is the main focus of the 13 EAS's mission while at Clark. Throughout the next two weeks, U.S. Airmen and Soldiers will exchange experiences for collecting, processing, and analyzing the satellite imagery Eagle Vision captures with their Philippine partners .
"Our ultimate goal is to build and leave our friends in the Philippine Air Force a collection of products and capabilities that will help them when responding to natural disasters. The PAF is already engaged and experienced at providing relief, Typhoon Nina is the latest example. When the next typhoon hits, the U.S. and Philippines will be comfortable using Eagle Vision together to get aid where is it needed the most," Day said.
The U.S. Air Force has five Eagle Vision systems. Eagle Vision is the Air Force's only releaseable unclassified, commercial deployable satellite imagery downlink ground-station. The system is operated and maintained by a variety of Air Force specialties, making it self-sustained capability with only the need to contract diesel fuel.
Eagle Vision has been deployed to support Pacific HADR operations in India, Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines.