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FAS Project on Intelligence Reform


The IRON CLAD [formerly known as REEF POINT] collection system is mounted on P-3C airframes. The P-3 Special Project Aircraft (OSIP 29-82) modification replaces obsolete communications intelligence [COMINT] collection equipment in four P-3 special project aircraft by:
  1. Procurement of common Navy systems for increased capability, reduced operator workload and common logistics.
  2. Installation and support of special mission equipment provided by Intelligence Agencies.
  3. Update of radio frequency distribution hardware for selected intelligence gathering subsystems.
  4. Procurement of special mission equipment as directed by the Chief of Naval Operations.
  5. Conversion of interior and exterior of aircraft for operations in the 1990's.
P-3 aircraft have an operational requirement for UHF satellite communications (SATCOM) and currently have satellite capable communications suites. JCS Memos MJCS-36-89 and MJCS-63-89 modify SATCOM access to require ANDVT and DAMA standards by 30 September 96. The FY 94 and subsequent programs will bring all 238 P-3C and 4 Special Project aircraft to a common radio configuration which meets all requirements for SATCOM and Havequick.

Commencing in FY 1997 this program is transferred to the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO), OSIP 18-97. This Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO) program modifies or replaces obsolete intelligence collection equipment in FY 1998/FY 1999 in four P-3 special project aircraft. Procurements vary in each fiscal year and include common Navy systems for increased capabilitity, reduced operator workload and common logistics. Airborne reconnaissance program offices, such as Guardrail, Reef Point, Rivet Joint, Joint STARS, and Airborne Reconnaissance Low (ARL) also a part of the Tactical Common Data Link IPT providing specific program input. The TCDL will interoperate with existing CDL systems operating at the 10.71 Mbps Return Link and the 200 Kbps Command Link data rates.

Based on CINC requirements and QDR mission scenario forecasts, a minimum of four Reef Point aircraft are required to meet current and projected needs. Two Reef Point aircraft will reach the end of their service life in fiscal year 2001. In order to begin modification of two low-flight-hour airframes to accept existing Reef Point sensors, the Senate Appropriations Committee provided $7,000,000 in fiscal year 1998, of a total of $26,600,000 required to complete the modifications. The Department was directed to include funding in fiscal year 1999 and the out-years to complete this effort.

REEF POINT aircraft are operated by VPU-1 and VPU-2, the Navy's "Patrol Squadron Special Project Units" which both have two P-3 aircraft which are referred to as "specially equipped". The Units used to operate. VPU-1 (located at NAS Brunswick) P-3Bs, which are approaching the end of their service life. VPU-2 (located at NAS Barbers Point) transferred from P-3Bs to P-3Cs several years ago.

Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets such as Iron Clad, U-2, RC-135 Rivet Joint, and special-mission aircraft were in extremely high demand during the Kosovo operations. Maritime patrol aircraft provided a number of important capabilities to support commandersí ISR needs.

Operating Units

Sources and Methods

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Created by John Pike
Maintained by Steven Aftergood

Updated Sunday, February 20, 2000 11:21:40 AM