Adm. Samuel Locklear III gave a teasing glimpse at the ISR aircraft being used to support the air war in Libya today when he acknowledged that E-8 JSTARS radar jets and RQ-4 Global Hawk spy drones are likely on scene.
While he refused to give details of all the different aircraft on station, Locklear said during a press conference today; "I'm not going to give you a lay down of our ISR forces as they go over the country of Libya but I can assure you that for us, and the coalition, that we have moved sufficient ISR assets into the theater; that include some of the ones that you have mentioned." Locklear was responding to a reporter's asking if ISR planes such as the E-8 or Global Hawk have been deployed there.
Both the JSTARS and Global Hawks have powerful radars that are used to spot moving targets on the ground or take synthetic aperture radar snapshots of targets. You can bet these have been very useful in halting the advance of Gadhafi's ground forces. Earlier this month we saw how Air Force Global Hawks are mapping the damage from the killer earthquake in Japan.
These come in addition to the E-3 AWACS that have been patrolling Libyan skies for weeks now.
Oh, and don't forget that the Navy's P-3 Orion sub-hunters and EP-3 Aries are also on scene. Some of the P-3s are equipped with similar radars as the JSTARS that can be used to scan the surface of the sea or large swaths of ground for targets.
Also, interestingly, you'll note that among the RAF's contingent of planes participated in the campaign, its Lockheed L-1011 Tristar-based tankers are listed as performing ISR missions here. Anyone heard of this before? I've seen that the Tristars were used as tankers for the Libyan ops but not as reconnaissance planes.