The Air Force Distributed Common Ground System (AF DCGS), also referred to as the AN/GSQ-272 SENTINEL weapon system, is the Air Force’s primary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) planning and direction, collection, processing and exploitation, analysis and dissemination (PCPAD) weapon system. The weapon system employs a global communications architecture that connects multiple intelligence platforms and sensors. Airmen assigned to AF DCGS produce actionable intelligence from data collected by a variety of sensors on the U-2, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and other ISR platforms.
The Air Force DCGS is currently composed of 27 regionally aligned, globally networked sites. The sites have varying levels of capability and capacity to support the intelligence needs of the warfighter. An Air Force DCGS Distributed Ground System (DGS) is capable of robust, multi-intelligence processing, exploitation and dissemination (PED) activities to include sensor tasking and control. It can support multiple ISR platforms in multiple theaters of operation simultaneously. A Distributed Mission Site (DMS) normally has specialized analysis/exploitation capabilities, limited sensor command and control (C2) capabilities, and may be limited to select platforms and/or sensors. The Air Force DCGS PED Operations Center (DPOC) and 480th ISR Wing DCGS Operations Center (DOC) provide worldwide command, control, mission management and data dissemination allowing the Air Force DCGS to operate as a federated enterprise to meet worldwide intelligence needs. DGS and DMS sites are manned by a mixture of active-duty, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and coalition partner units working to provide an integrated combat capability.
AF DCGS active-duty units are assigned to 25th Air Force (Air Combat Command), however AF DCGS employs a total force integration (TFI) concept for expanded capacity, using both Air National Guard units assigned to their respective states until activated by presidential order and classic associate Air Reserve intelligence units. The 480th ISR Wing, headquartered at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, is the Air Force DCGS lead wing and is responsible for executing worldwide Air Force DCGS operations.
The individual weapon system nodes are regionally aligned and paired with corresponding Air Force component numbered air forces to provide critical processing, analysis and dissemination of intelligence collected within the numbered air force's area of responsibility; however, globally networked capabilities enable other DGS sites to execute missions beyond their numbered air force’s geographic area of responsibility.
The 480th ISR Wing DOC relies on daily coordination with liaison officers embedded in worldwide theater command and control elements to ensure current knowledge of dynamic PED capacities. This ensures the weapon system remains operationally aligned to specific theater collection priorities, and intelligence missions are executed in keeping with the combined forces air component commander (CFACC), joint force commander air component commander (JFACC) and the joint force component commander-isr (jfcc-isr) apportionment and allocation to fully satisfy joint and coalition intelligence needs.
Air Force DCGS participates in operations throughout the world, including those led by the UN, NATO, U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. European Command, U.S. Forces Korea, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Southern Command.
Air Force DCGS evolved from ISR programs dating back to the late 1960s, however the current weapon system traces its direct lineage to the Contingency Airborne Reconnaissance System (CARS) established in 1992 at Langley AFB. CARs was housed in approximately 27 deployable shelters and undertook deployments to Guantanamo Bay (Cuba) and Saudi Arabia. In October 1994, ACC and the Pacific Air Forces signed an Organizational Change request (OCR) that stood up DGS-1 (Langley AFB), DGS-2 (Beale AFB), and DGS-3 (Osan AB). In 1996, CARS became AF DCGS.
Since its early inception, Air Force DCGS has evolved from a deployable system to a distributed ISR operation capable of providing world-wide, near-real-time simultaneous intelligence to multiple theaters of operation through a robust reachback communications architectures. The system integrates data collected by ISR platforms with exploitation performed by intelligence professionals to provide critical and actionable intelligence to leadership and supported commanders worldwide. Through a federated/distributed architecture, AF DCGS can move data between multiple worldwide sites to align intelligence production to meet ISR collection demands. Over the years, the Air Force DCGS weapon system and its predecessor systems have supported ISR operations in every major conflict in which U.S. forces have been involved. In addition, AF DCGS has provided intelligence exploitation during humanitarian and coalition partner operations via specialized products specifically cleared for release.
Primary function: intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
Major system contractors: Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Leidos, UTAS and Houston-Fearless
Major support contractors: Northrop Grumman, Booz Allen Hamilton, TASC, MITRE and General Dynamics
Daily operational tempo: more than 50 ISR sorties exploited, over 1,200 hours of motion imagery reviewed, approximately 3,000 Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) reports produced, 1250 still images exploited and 20 terabytes of data managed daily
Operational crew size per 12-hour mission: high altitude U-2 or RQ-4 multi-INT = 45; medium altitude MQ-1/9 multi-INT = 8. Mission crews are tailored according to mission demands and supported by maintenance, communications and contractor personnel.
Unit cost: approximately $750 million (includes facilities, equipment, communications fees, and costs associated with personnel)
Initial operating capability: DGS-1: July 1994; DGS-2, July 1995; DGS-3, November 1996; DGS-NV, October 2001; DGS-4, February 2003; DGS-5, October 2004; DGS-KS, July 2006; DGS-AL and DGS-AR, November 2006; DGS-IN, September 2009; DGS-MA, December 2009, DMS-UT, Oct 2014
Inventory: five active duty DGS sites (DGS-1 through 5), four active duty DMS sites (DMS-GA, -MD, -HI and –GE), eight Air National Guard DGS sites (DGS-Ala., -Ark., -Calif., -Ind., -Kan., -Mass., two collocated with active duty sites), one Air National Guard DMS site and four Air Force Reserve units (all collocated with active duty sites). In addition, robust tactics, techniques and procedures (TTP) development and test and evaluation
(Current as of October 2015)