A couple of months ago, I wrote about the US Air Force's new Gorgon Stare area monitoring system. It was said to be ready for deployment back then, but it now appears that it may not be ready for prime time.
Gorgon Stare, hailed by the Washington Post as an advanced ISR tool par excellence, should not be fielded now because it works less than the half time it should and is deemed by testers to be 'not operationally suitable'.
The 53rd Wing of the Air Combat Command at Eglin Air Force Base made the recommendation in an operational utility evaluation.
. . .
'According to DOD testers, Gorgon Stare is ineffective (‘not operationally effective’) and unreliable (‘not operationally suitable’). As described below, it cannot readily find and identify targets (especially human targets), and it cannot reliably locate what it sees. (Moving targets of any size at any location present a different problem.)'
. . .
What really makes this noteworthy is that Gorgon Stare is exactly the kind of program that Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his acquisition leaders believe can help reshape how the Pentagon buys and develops weapons.
. . .
The argument by many technology and Pentagon advocates will be that the system has been fielded rapidly and will get much better with time, as users figure out better how to use it, maintainers figure out how to work with it and the developers improve the technology. That’s all true, but this and other rapidly fielded systems must get even better as the budget crunch is likely to grow worse or they risk being scrapped for poor performance.
There's more at the link.
I'm not too concerned at this stage about Gorgon Stare's performance problems. The program was developed from scratch in a mere 18 months - a remarkable achievement in anyone's book! - and its performance is already an order of magnitude ahead of anything else we've got. I'm sure the problems uncovered by the USAF's operational evaluation will be fixed over time.
Nevertheless, this is an object lesson in how not to handle public relations. Someone was over-eager to put out a 'gee-whiz' press release, emphasizing how the latest technology would 'change the game' in modern warfare. They jumped the gun. Gorgon Stare will now have to endure the harsh light of negative publicity, and any money spent on its ongoing development (which will happen, because it's an essential technology) will be that much harder to justify and get approved.
I hope and trust that lessons will be learned . . . but I'm not holding my breath. The same mistake has been made too often in the past. It seems that when it comes to public relations, those in charge of US high-tech military projects are all too prone to shooting themselves in the foot (sometimes both feet simultaneously). One does get tired of it . . .