Air Force Distributed Common Ground System

The Air Force Distributed Common Ground System, or AF DCGS, weapon system is the service's premier globally networked intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapon system. The DCGS produces intelligence information collected by the U-2 Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1 Predator.

The AF DCGS is currently composed of 45 geographically separated, networked sites. The distributed ground and mission sites are a mixture of active-duty, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units working as an integrated combat capability.

The individual weapon system nodes are regionally focused and paired with their corresponding Air Force component numbered air force to provide critical processing, analysis and dissemination of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR, data collected within the numbered air force's area of responsibility.

However, globally networked capabilities enable the weapon system to execute missions beyond their area of responsibility. Each weapon system is able to accept data from any U-2 Dragonlady, RQ-4 Global Hawk, MQ-9 Reaper or MQ-1 Predator operating anywhere in the world and analyze and disseminate accurate and timely intelligence globally.

The weapon system employs global communications architecture to connect multiple intelligence platforms to the Distributed Common Ground System weapon system. The 480th ISR Wing's Operations Center ensures global synchronization for all the sites.

In daily coordination with weapon system liaison officers embedded in the theaters' command and control elements, the 480th ISR wing operations center relies on detailed knowledge of dynamic PED capacities to operationally align regional AF DCGS expertise with specific theater collection priorities and assets. This ensures intelligence missions are executed in keeping with the joint force commander and the joint force component commander-ISR apportionment and allocation to fully satisfy joint and coalition intelligence needs.

AF DCGS currently participates in operations throughout the world including those led by United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 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 operations throughout the world.

The current AF DCGS concept evolved from many Air Force ISR predecessor programs dating back to the 1960's. The first AF DCGS weapon system, called the Deployable Ground Station-1, or DGS-1, began operations in July 1994. A few short weeks later, the DGS-1 weapon system deployed to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in support of military operations in Haiti in August 1994.

The DCGS has evolved from a deployable system into a true distributed ISR operations capability integrating platforms and crews to provide critical intelligence to combat forces down to the warfighters at the lowest level. Over the years, the AF DCGS weapon system and its predecessor systems have engaged in ISR operations in every major conflict that has had U.S. involvement.

Active-duty systems are assigned to Air Force ISR Agency, with Air National Guard units assigned to their respective states until activated by presidential order.  Additional ANG sites are being developed and going into operation.  The 480th ISR Wing at Langley AFB, Va., is responsible for executing AF DCGS operations worldwide, including many of the 50 states.

General Characteristics
Primary Function:
Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
Major System Contractors: Raytheon, Lockheed-Martin, L-3 Communications, Northrop Grumman, Hughes, Goodrich and Houston-Fearless
Major Support Contractors: Northrop Grumman, SAIC, Spectrum, Booz Allen Hamilton and General Dynamics
Processing Capability: Approximately 700 gigabytes of information flow through the 480 IW Wing Operations Center daily--equivalent to more than 700 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica
Crew: 45 operational crewmembers (U-2 mission); 47 operational crewmembers (RQ-4 mission); 7 operational crewmembers (MQ-1/MQ-9 mission). All 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) for a primary weapon system
Initial Operating Capability: The first AF DGS weapon system node (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; and DGS-AL and DGS-AR, November 2006; DGS-IN, September 2009; DGS-MA, December 2009.
Inventory: Active force sites, 36; Air Force Reserve sites, 2; ANG sites, 7. Active force sites in development, 4; Reserve sites in development, 2.