Crowdsourcing Targeting

So, we’ve become somewhat accustomed to the thought of aviators waging war from the comfort of an air conditioned van in Nevada controlling deadly drone strikes across the globe.

But usually, when we talk about close air support, we almost by definition mean that the actual attack will be conducted under the auspices or a forward air controller on the ground, or what the new Army calls a Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC).  The JTAC’s job includes verifying that the target is really a target, and not a bus load of nuns or fluffy kittens.

But NATO air operations in Libya in support of the rebels there are hampered by the fact that we don’t have JTACs on the ground (probably!). So how do you get targeting information on Libyan government forces that are hiding from airstrikes.  Well, try twitter:

A Twitter account with apparent links to the British military has even taken the unusual step of asking users to submit the precise co-ordinates of troops loyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

(59-year old Ontarian) Judith Clinch was among the first to respond. Months of online activism earned her a role as administrator of the Libyan Youth Movement page on Facebook – the only non-Libyan honoured with the job, she says – and on Monday she noticed that a regular member, somebody located in western Libya, had pinpointed a gas station converted into a temporary headquarters for Col. Gadhafi’s forces. She tweeted the co-ordinates, along with the longitude and latitude of a few other targets passed along from the same source, asking NATO to “clean up” the government troops.

There are some obvious risks to this approach. The first that pops into my head is that the opposition will try to corrupt the targeting process, and generate fraticide attacks, or even better (from their point of view) a massacre of civilians.

So the NATO forces aren’t just treating the Twitter feed as a call for fire queue. But they are apparently using it as a means of prioritizing possible targets and as additional confirmation in their fire support process.

It’s still not as good as having a liason on the ground, but it is an innovative approach to a difficult task.

H/T: Nep Lex


4 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing Targeting”

  1. Dude, this is almost what you suggested a couple months ago. It’s not quite as good as having a live video feed for people to nominate targets from … but it’s still pretty damned nifty.

  2. I’ve always advocated a news crew with “camera” (artfully concealing a lasar designator), free to go around the battlefield and lazing enemy targets. Probably get some nice take-home footage that way, too.

    1. Secret one in with an Al Jazeera crew. Let them paint targets, then some collateral damage after to hide the evidence.

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