Eagle Vision Program
Eagle Vision Program- a ground-based commercial satellite imagery service for the US Air Force
Airbus DS (Defence and Space) celebrates the 25th anniversary of Eagle Vision, the company's low-mass, deployable, imagery downlink ground station, designed to process and distribute commercial satellite imagery in near-realtime to support U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard missions in homeland security, combat and disaster relief. 1)
Eagle Vision allows downloading and processing of unclassified commercial satellite imagery directly in the field, as the satellite passes overhead, supporting military leaders, even in remote areas and non-anticipated operations. Imagery provided by this system supports wartime operations, natural disaster and relief efforts as well as Homeland Defense preparations.
The system receives and processes SPOT-6 and - 7, TerraSAR-X and Pleiades images, and is also capable of processing Landsat-7 and -8, Radarsat-2, RapidEye, CartoSat, Ikonos, Cosmo-SkyMed and Resurs-DK data. The Eagle Vision Program has been a valuable asset within the U.S. Air Force for the past 25 years. The program enables the Warfighters, First Responders and Planners to have situational awareness so that they can plan, execute and deliver mission resources efficiently and effectively.
Figure 1: The Eagle Vision station is the world's first, lightweight, deployable, commercial satellite imagery downlink ground system (image credit: Airbus Defence and Space)
Five Eagle Vision systems have been developed and sustained 24/7 by Airbus Defence and Space for the last 25 years. They are assigned to: Ramstein Air Base, Germany; San Diego Air National Guard Station, California; McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, U.S.
François Lombard, Director of the Intelligence Business at Airbus Defence and Space, said that the firm is celebrating this uninterrupted success since 1993 — Eagle Vision has become a valuable source for commercial imagery exploitation for the U.S. Air Force and many entities within the US Government, to provide fresh, near real-time satellite data for information extraction in preparation for mission critical applications.
Some background on the Eagle Vision Program:
• February 24, 2017: More than 100 million people watched Super Bowl 50 not knowing that systems designed by members of U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command were keeping emergency personnel prepared for contingencies. 2)
- Members of the USASMDC/ARSTRAT [US Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Huntsville, AL (Redstone Arsenal)] worked alongside Air Force and National Guard Bureau personnel to develop three tools to support emergency personnel. The specific prototyping and experimentation technologies provided by the USASMDC/ARSTRAT to the Warfighters and first responders were EVR2EST (Eagle Vision and Rover Responsive Exploitation of Space Products for Tactical Use), GIIEP (Geospatial Information Interoperability Exploitation — Portable), and the ISD (Information Sharing Dashboard).
- The technologies were used by organizations such as the California National Guard, U.S. Air Force North, or AFNORTH, Joint Air Component Command Element, or JACCE, the Santa Clara Fire Department and California Highway Patrol to plan, coordinate and execute activities that helped ensure the safe conduct of Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California.
- "This is Incredible," said Thomas L. Merrill, Joint Intelligence Plans and Policy Branch chief, National Guard Bureau. "When we started this upgrade project four years ago I never dreamed that we'd have a home run this soon. I kept an eye on it throughout the event - it did everything as planned, as required and as advertised.
- "Great job to all," he added. "Your team has my respect and admiration. No other team was able to build a tool and tie everything together on a real world mission. Nearly every other government agency and state has tried but it's only been done here."
- Capabilities provided by the technologies included the processing, analysis and dissemination of FMV (Full Motion Video) from airborne platforms such as Army National Guard's UH-72 helicopters and Air National Guard RC-26 fixed wing aircraft, collaboration and interoperability between organizations and common operational pictures and the dissemination of commercial space-based imagery products around the Levi's Stadium area.
- The ISD pulled data together for all organizations involved and allowed all information collected via EVR2EST, GIIEP and other means to be integrated and disseminated to pertinent officials.
- "The purpose of the dashboard is to provide modern, web centric capabilities that combine situational awareness with mission tracking capabilities for use by not only Department of Defense organizations, but also the entire joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational community at federal, state and local levels," said Terri Schrimsher, SMDC military analyst. "This capability was used in support of the Super Bowl by a deployed JACCE to monitor the North American Aerospace Defense Command air picture, collaborate with partners and provide access and distribution of relevant documents and other geospatial intelligence data. This service, originally developed to support integrated air and missile defense systems within Army air and missile defense commands, is now being re-used to support Warfighters performing other roles."
- Local emergency units utilized Eagle Vision, which is a family of deployable, commercial satellite ground stations that collect and process near real-time optical and synthetic aperture radar imagery from commercial satellites. Commercial satellite imagery is then provided to agencies using EVR2EST.
- "We supported the Super Bowl with a suite of products and services that are produced here for other agencies," said Justin Novak, SMDC Future Warfare Center computer engineer. "The Eagle Vision imagery was disseminated and shared throughout all of the systems using EVR2EST. Eagle Vision was able to downlink it prior to and during the Super Bowl and that gave a very clear picture of what the ground-truth is. They could tell where tailgaters were set up as well as where staging areas were set up for different emergency services."
- EVR2EST, pronounced Everest, allows the rapid distribution of space-based imagery and radar products generated by the Eagle Vision Program's deployable satellite ground stations. EVR2EST provided a common web-based platform for the U.S. Air Force A2QS Eagle Vision Systems to catalog, archive and disseminate their commercial space-based imagery products. Teams supporting the Super Bowl had access to timely space-based imagery and radar products directly from the deployed ground station on their laptops, tablets and smart phones.
- "We are really pleased that everything went smoothly and we were able to partake in this joint venture," Novak said. "We are pleased that we were requested for this type of support with the products and services that we produce. They are really making a difference out there for the Warfighter and emergency personnel."
Figure 2: Near real time satellite imagery downlinked by Eagle Vision 3 and distributed by U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command products and services to first responders in support of Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, California, 7 Feb. 2017 (copyright: Airbus DS 2016, provided for use with article, photo credit: Carrie David)
- GIIEP, pronounced jeep, is a man-portable, multi-band receiver that analyzes a variety of visual and textual data. During the Super Bowl it enhanced emergency personnel's ability to respond to potential disaster situations and provided annotated and compressed imagery products, both still and video, which could be quickly disseminated to mission planners.
- "The California Air National Guard has been using the tool since June, and they were tasked with monitoring various aerial feeds and looking for suspicious activities," said Curtis Miller, GIIEP Sustainment project lead. "The Super Bowl is an opportunity for terrorists to do horrible things, and because we have a tool with which information can be shared by many different organizations, those organizations can respond more efficiently. - It makes me feel good to know that our tools were used to protect those who were at the Super Bowl," he added. "Our goal from the beginning was to give the National Guard and local authorities the ability to communicate and share information to protect people and ultimately save lives."
- The National Guard Bureau J2's GIIEP system was integrated into the IAA (Incident Awareness and Assessment) cycle in California allowing government members of the interstate and interagency at the federal, state and local levels to collaboratively plan, coordinate and execute activities that ensured the safe conduct during the Super Bowl. California Reserve servicemembers, as well as local first responders, were able to leverage GIIEP technologies and California interagency aviation assets into the overall Super Bowl 50 IAA solution.
- "The communication flow worked so well that at one point when nefarious actors were arrested using the incident awareness and assessment cycle, the whole Super Bowl 50 operations center cheered," said Air Force Capt. Megan Stromberg, California Air National Guard DJ2 incident awareness and assessment coordinator "It was amazing that we got everyone in there and that IAA worked so perfectly."
• January 29, 2017: Typhoons, tsunamis, floods and even mudslides, the Asia-Pacific Region is well-acquainted with the devastation wrought by natural disasters. As populations increase among many Pacific nations, the need for disaster preparedness and response continues to grow. The U.S. and its Pacific allies and partners frequently train together to address the growing need for readiness. When a disaster occurs, readiness can protect and restore the lives of millions of Pacific residents. 3)
- Readiness is the exact reason the 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron, a joint team of U.S. Airmen and Soldiers, traveled to Clark Air Base, Philippines. The team brought with them a ground-based satellite imagery system, called Eagle Vision, a collection manager from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii and geospatial and imagery analysts from Ft. Shafter, Hawaii. The unit deployed to conduct a Pacific Air Forces Subject Matter Expert Exchange mission together with Philippine Air Force members. The SMEEs will focus on using geospatial satellite imagery, acquired by Eagle Vision, to support Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief efforts.
- "Eagle Vision can move all over the world, we can set up our system anywhere and start pulling down imagery from commercial satellites," said Chief Master Sgt. Reid Tsubota, Eagle Vision Superintendent with the Hawaii Air National Guard's 154th Wing from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
- "The HADR applications of this system are incredible. In fact, this is our fourth time here in the Philippines. In 2006 we were initially supporting exercise Balikatan when the Southern Leyte mudslides occurred here. Using Eagle Vision we were able to to provide the Marine Corps' first responders imagery that ultimately helped in the recovery and relief efforts," Tsubota said.
- During this fourth visit, Tsubota and his team of 15 Guardsmen, assigned to the 154th Wing at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, will work alongside their Philippine counterparts during a series of exchanges focused on the HADR uses Eagle Vision offers. The two-week long Eagle Vision SMEE will culminate with a table-top exercise where Philippine and U.S. military members will simulate a HADR response to a typhoon, a disaster the Philippines experiences. A series of smaller engagements will take place leading up to the simulation. These events are meant to help the military members from both nations discover ways to work better together.
- "The U.S. and Philippines have been allies for a long time. HADR is one of the cornerstones of our alliance. And as history has shown us, time and time again, natural disasters will occur in the Pacific. Lives will be impacted and the U.S. and Philippines will come together to bring life-saving aid to those in need," said Lt. Col. Peter Day, the 13th Expeditionary Air Squadron's commander, leading the Eagle Vision team.
- According to Tsubota, Eagle Vision provides decision-quality infomation. Commanders and organizations providing HADR support can use Eagle Vision's imagery for a variety of purposes including: selecting ingress and egress routes for aid; predicting the air mobility requirements of an airfield, such as viability and capacity, for receiving relief; or ascertaining the extent and magnitude of damage caused by a disaster.
- "Eagle Vision excels at providing accurate readings. During the Leyte mudslides we outlined before and after images of the affected area. The change detection helped direct resources to the hardest hit locations with the greatest need," said Master Sgt. Chad Tedrowe, an Eagle Vision Data Integration Segment engineer.
- Eagle Vision uses commerically available satellites to capture scenes. Scenes are acquired from commercial satellites SPOT-6 and SPOT-7 and consist of 60 by 60 kilometer swathes where each pixel represents one and a half meters of ground area. Scenes are detailed and customizable to meet mission requirements. Additionally, scenes can include data integration such as geographic coordinates or elevation down to an individual pixel level of detail.
• In November 2014, Airbus DS signed a contract for system evolution and maintenance of the US Air Force's (USAF) Eagle Vision mobile ground satellite stations. 4)
- Under the agreement, Airbus Defence and Space will undertake system evolution work to reduce the system's footprint to transit cases versus the current shelter housing. It will also introduce smaller antenna dishes and integrate new satellites.
- Furthermore, the firm will be responsible for the provision of 24/7 support for the system, failure corrections with workaround solutions, spares management, preventive maintenance, and training and support during deployments.
- Eagle Vision is a commercial, off-the-shelf deployable ground station designed to process imagery from commercial satellites for intelligence preparation of the battle space, mission planning and rehearsal, predictive battle space awareness, and battle damage assessment.
- The fourth-generation system supports users during natural disaster relief operations and homeland defence preparations. It is also capable of receiving imagery from SPOT-6/7 and TerraSAR- X/Tandem-X constellations.
- Since 1994, the stations have also delivered planning and mission support to the US military during Operations Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
- More than 20 satellites have been integrated into the system, depending on their availability and lifecycle since 1993.
- Further upgrades are planned to enable the system to receive and process data from WorldView and Pleiades satellites.
- Eagle Vision systems are assigned to Ramstein Air Base, Germany, San Diego Air National Guard Station, California, McEntire Joint National Guard Base, South Carolina, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Redstone Arsenal, Alabama, US.
- The technology is sponsored by the US Air Force ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) innovations office and the program management office at Hanscom Air Force Base. Work under the contract is scheduled to run until 2019.
• Summer 2001: Eagle Vision is a family of systems that includes Eagle Vision I, an operational system that collects and processes commercial (SPOT, Landsat, Radarsat, and IRS) and national imagery located at Ramstein AFB, Germany; National Eagle, an operational system that processes (no collection capability) national and commercial imagery at 152 IS, Reno (ANG), Nevada; and Eagle Vision II, a system developed by the National Reconnaissance Organization for the U.S. Army that collects and processes commercial (SPOT, Landsat, Radarsat, and Orbview) imagery. Eagle Vision I and II are composed of two elements, a data acquisition segment (DAS) which includes an antenna and a shelter that collects and processes imagery into a standard format, and a transit-cased data integration segment (DIS) that processes the standard format products into useful products for a combat commander's mission planning, rehearsal, and intelligence gathering. — The acquisition segment for Eagle Vision I and II were developed by Airbus DS ( former EADS Matra Systems and Information, Velizy, France and the Eagle Vision I DAS is sustained by Matra as well). The integration segments for both Eagle Vision I and II were developed and are sustained by Veridian International, Ann Arbor, Michigan, as is National Eagle, a shelter version of the delta integration segment. 5)
- Operational: The Eagle Vision family emerged from the Desert Storm combat commander's operational demand for digital imagery to support air and carrier based mission planning/rehearsal and intelligence gathering systems, as well as Army and Marine Corps topographic units. The requirements are documented in the Combat Air Forces Short Method to Acquire Ready or Replacement Technologies Operational Requirements Document CAF 304-96-IIIA for Commercial Imagery Exploitation Systems, 23 July 1998.
- During Desert Storm, U.S. forces did not have the organic capability to receive and process broad area/multi-spectral imagery, but they relied on the purchase of commercial SPOT imagery.
- This imagery required extensive processing at four different CONUS sites prior to shipment to the theater, a process that took four to six weeks. This delay did not meet the high tempo operational needs of Desert Storm. The operational requirement for "real time" mission critical imagery spawned the concept of Eagle Vision. Modifications have been made to the requirements based on emerging technologies (higher resolution/all weather satellites) and operational needs. Eagle Vision has been used extensively in the Balkans (Operation Allied Force) and deployed to Japan, Alaska, the United Kingdom, Italy and various CONUS sites to satisfy real world contingencies.
- Acquisition history: In the past, Eagle Vision acquisitions and modifications have been procured under the FCT (Foreign Comparative Test) program (DoD 5000.3-M-2). By using the FCT program, U.S. government commitments under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Republic of France were also fulfilled. An FCT candidate nomination proposal for the fabrication and demonstration of Eagle Vision I was submitted to OSD/DDR&E (T&E) on 15 May 1992. The proposal was based on a market survey conducted by ESC and USAFE that determined that the most cost effective candidate for the development of the Eagle Vision program was Airbus DS (former Matra). On 28 October 1992, the Office of Secretary of Defense selected and funded the Eagle Vision program under the FCT provisions. Subsequently, a sole source request for proposal was released to Matra for the demonstration and validation effort.
- In 1995, the operational community identified a requirement for multi-spectral broad area imagery. To satisfy the requirement, a Landsat 5 capability was added to the system. Requirements for higher resolution imagery and an all-weather capability were identified in 1996. On 21 March 1996, a second foreign comparative test proposal was submitted to OSD/DDR&E, and was approved and funded. The purpose of this second candidate was to study higher resolution electro-optical and all weather synthetic aperture radar imagery collected by multiple foreign satellites (Canadian Radarsat, Indian Remote Sensing (IRS), and European Radar System (ERS). This study was combined with the Landsat-5 upgrade and was designated as the "Renaissance View" foreign comparative test. Again, Airbus DS (former Matra) was the designated source. Under this effort, a Radarsat satellite capability was added to the system, but IRS and (ERS) were not due to funding constraints. Data from IRS and (ERS) were evaluated to fulfill a need for higher resolution imagery, and for day and night and all-weather large area synoptic and optical coverage. These platforms provided a low-cost gap-filler to existing surveillance satellites, and improved the timeliness of data delivery due to faster revisit rates and all-weather capabilities.
- In the Renaissance View FCT test report, USAFE made various recommendations. The USAFE recommended upgrades of the system and continued sustainment (maintenance, emerging technology hardware and software upgrades, and purchase of a DAS for National Eagle) of the Eagle Vision DAS system. This requirement was to be performed in the Renaissance View FCT implementation phase, to be funded collectively by the individual military services (i.e., non-foreign comparative test funding). Step one of the Renaissance View FCT implementation phase was intended to include USAFE's recommended upgrades of the system and continued sustainment of the Eagle Vision DAS system. This effort was estimated at $27.1M and, as before, Airbus DS (former Matra Systems and Information) was the designated source. An international agreement competitive restrictions (IACR) for this first step of the Renaissance View FCT implementation phase (DAS sustainment) was approved on 16 September 1999. Additional Eagle Vision systems (both segments - DAS and DIS) were planned to be procured later under step two of the Renaissance View FCT.
- Preliminary fiscal year 2000 defense budget actions included a $21 million augmentation for the Eagle Vision program. To purchase a National Eagle collection capability (DAS) for the 152 IS, Reno ANG, NV (under step one - IACR, above), and an Eagle Vision system (both segments - DAS and DIS) for the 240 CBCS, McEntire ANG, South Carolina (under step two). During committee review, however, the $21 million addition was reduced to $12 million.
- Fiscal year 2001 defense budget actions included a $5 million increase for the Eagle Vision Air National Guard program. To provide a dissemination capability to the Eagle Vision III and IV data acquisition segments were procured with fiscal year 2000 augmentation. The fiscal year 2001 defense budget actions also included another $4.5 million augmentation for the Eagle Vision Air National Guard program, to provide one-meter upgrade to Eagle Vision III and IV. Part of this funding was used to pay for the shortfall when ESC/SRG awarded the DAS contract last summer (that paid for the IRS and Radarsat software and software licenses). There is approximately $2.775 million remaining for this effort. The defense budget also included $3.8 million for upgrades to the Eagle Vision I program. Headquarters USAFE/INXY and ESC plan to use these funds to upgrade and replace the existing Eagle Vision I dissemination capability (DIS) to take advantage of emerging technology and ensure system compatibility with Eagle Vision III and IV.
- The Future: The program office recently submitted a new foreign comparative test proposal for SPOT 5. The SPOT 5 satellite provides two advances not available in current commercial imaging satellites. First, it provides a readily pointable 5-meter panchromatic and 10-meter multispectral imaging capability. Second, the satellite and processing system are designed to acquire and process two 5-meter images into a single 2.5-meter image. The derivation of a higher-resolution image from two lower-resolution images is a new capability for commercial imagery satellite systems and this derived imagery product should be evaluated for its utility for the war-fighter. This 2.5-meter capability doubles the current Eagle Vision panchromatic resolution of 5 meters.
- Today: Eagle Vision I recently completed the on-site acceptance testing on its IRS upgraded (5 meter resolution). This higher resolution although not one meter will benefit EV I proposed deployment to South Africa scheduled for this calendar year. A second upgrade underway is the synthetic aperture radar (SAR) upgrade. This will reduce the current processing time from 40 minutes to 7 minutes. The DAS procurement for Eagle Vision III and IV is on going and will be delivered to the user the first quarter fiscal year 2002. The program office is investigating the one-meter upgrade system wide with the upcoming acquisition of the DIS (Ref. 5).
1) "Airbus Defence and Space Celebrates 25 Years of Commercial Satellite Imagery Downlink Success for U.S. Air Force," Satnews Daily, 7 June 2018, URL:
2) "SMDC-developed programs support Super Bowl 50," US Army, 24 February 2017, URL: https://www.army.mil/article/183126/smdc_developed_programs_support_super_bowl_50
3) James Stewart, "13th Expeditionary Air Squadron Sets up Eagle Vision for Bilateral Exchanges with the Philippines," 20 Jan. 2017, URL:
4) "USAF contracts Airbus for Eagle Vision system for ground satellite stations," USAF, 30 November 2014, URL: https://www.airforce-technology.com/news
5) Captain James A. Hartmetz, "Eagle Vision - Exploiting Commercial Satellite Imagery," The DISAM (Defense Institute of Security Assistance Management) Journal, Summer 2001, URL: http://www.disam.dsca.mil/pubs/v.23_4/hartmetz.pdf
The information compiled and edited in this article was provided by Herbert J. Kramer from his documentation of: "Observation of the Earth and Its Environment: Survey of Missions and Sensors" (Springer Verlag) as well as many other sources after the publication of the 4th edition in 2002. - Comments and corrections to this article are always welcome for further updates (firstname.lastname@example.org).