Video Above: US & NATO Air Superiority
While the Biden administration and the Pentagon remain steadfast with a clear resolve that no US forces will fight or operate in Ukraine for the specific purpose of avoiding World War III, there continues to be an accelerated op-tempo of US and NATO supplies, weapons and ammunition being fast-tracked to Ukraine.
This remains true, despite Russian threats that inbound NATO and US supplies traveling within Ukraine will be targeted by Russian troops.
“We have multiple routes to get secured assistance into the hands of the Ukrainians,” Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby told reporters March 14, according to a Pentagon transcript.
Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance
There is another critical, if less recognized element to US and NATO support for Ukraine, potentially related to drones, surveillance planes and sensor platforms.
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“One of the critical elements that is being provided to Ukraine, on behalf of NATO in the United States, is information,” retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Dean of Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies and former Air War Commander during the Gulf War and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, told Warrior. “The panoply of intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance assets that can contribute to the awareness of what the Russians are doing, where their locations are and what they’re up to. These are some of the significant elements that assist the Ukrainians in attaining the advantage against their outnumbered forces on the ground and in the air.”
Providing critical ISR data in real time as it becomes available is something US platforms, drones, planes and sensors are increasingly capable of doing. Advanced computer algorithms, for example, can identify moments of relevance from vast volumes of data and then transmit organized specifics to critical command and control nodes.
The explosion of ISR technology has led to fast-pace innovations in the areas of sensor range, resolution and image fidelity have reshaped what drones, surveillance planes and other platforms are able to accomplish. In effect, it is not beyond imagination to envision a scenario wherein NATO air surveillance assets could gather critical intelligence about Russian movements without needing to cross into Ukrainian airspace.
“You can see on internet sites that NATO and US aircraft are airborne to include the RC 135, Global Hawk and the F-35, which, by the way, are more than just fighters. They have one of the most capable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suites to be able to collect and share information of any aircraft that we have. So there are a variety of different sources that are being used to acquire intelligence and then having it shared with the Ukrainians,” Deptula said.
Well-timed and received video and data could, for instance, alert Ukrainian fighters as to the location of key points where Russian forces might be vulnerable or operate supply lines and important areas to attack.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest and President of Warrior Maven - the Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.