first published on June 18, 2019 by Will
US Army Space and Missile Defense Command has made advances in small imaging satellite technology that may soon allow each war fighting unit to receive realtime satellite imagery with no delays.
Current military satellites are large, expensive, and few in numbers. This means priority is given to SOF troops and specific missions, and often leaves hard-fighting brigade combat teams without realtime intelligence. They are forced to carryout missions based on aging information.
The Kestrel Eye is relatively cheap at $2 million a piece, so they can be mass produced. This means that initially, combat brigades will be allotted their own satellite, and as the program advances, battalions and even companies will have quick access to readily available satellites with no waiting in line.
The Kestrel Eye has many advantages over unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones can often be detected both audibly and visually by enemy forces, which causes them to change their patterns, carryout misdirections, and even shoot the asset down. The satellites cannot be detected by enemy ground forces, and due to their small size, are hard to detect by enemy satellites as well.
Another advantage is that once the satellite is in orbit, it is there indefinitely, providing uninterrupted intelligence. Drones have a limited loiter time, and have to take off and land, which in itself, increases the chances of further weather delays and mechanical failures.
Additionally, many of the large military drones are based relatively near the objective but are flown from the US. This requires a satellite relay station in a foreign nation which is subject to foreign political debate. During the height of Obama’s drone-everything-that-moves policy, the US was using a relay station in Germany, which came under heavy political strife by the German people.
Check out the following video for the scoop on Kestrel Eye.