Operation Creek Sand
Primary Operating Location: Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
– Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment (Burkina Faso)?
Start Date: 200?
End Date: 2013?
Superseded: Operation Aztec Silence
Superseded by: ?
Summary: Operation Creek Sand provided manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support to Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS). The aircraft operated out of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, which was also the primary operating location for the Joint Special Operations Aviation Detachment operating in support of OEF-TS. It is unclear whether the Creek Sand aircraft, which were contractor owned and contractor operated, were officially assigned or attached to this element, but it was highly likely that they utilized the same or otherwise related facilities for their operations. Creek Sand intelligence was processed by the Aztec Archer fusion cell, also believed to be located in Ouagadougou.
On 17 May 2010, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced a presolicitation for Africa Command ISR Initiative Operations (Aii Ops) contract. The Creek Sand mission was a component of this larger initiative. The proposed Creek Sand team would consist of at least 15 personnel. The sensor package would include electro-optical and infrared full motion video components, laser range finder, as well as, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), Hyperspectral (HSI), Synthetic-Aperture Radar (SAR), and other sensors as appropriate. The system was to be mounted on a manned aircraft, and the contract stated that AFRICOM preferred the Pilatus PC-12/47 aircraft. The platform would be contractor-owned/contractor operated. A signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability was also reportedly added to the system.
On 25 June 2010, the Aii Ops contract was delayed indefinitely. Creek Sand continued as a separate effort. Though the system used during the operation was related to the Tusker Sand system, which utilized a contractor-owned/contractor-operated Beechcraft King Air aircraft (C-12 equivalent), reports suggested that the AFRICOM preferred Pilatus PC-12 aircraft was provided by the selected contractor in the Creek Sand program. Other similar projects utilized various types of aircraft, so it is possible that more than one type was in use.
In February 2013, President Obama announced that he was dispatching forces to Niger to establish a forward operating location from which unmanned ISR operations could be carried out. It was reported that this was in response to growing ISR demands in the region, and the limitations and potential vulnerabilities of the manned systems being used on Creek Sand and Tusker Sand missions. It was unclear whether the establishment of this new operation caused Creek Sand operations to immediately come to a halt.
It is also worth nothing that DMS’ Code Name Directory, Twelfth Edition, published in 1983 said that the “Creek” first word was a permanent US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) first word, and included an entry for Creek Sand, referring to “Air Force individual technical electronic systems.” It was unclear if that Creek Sand and this program were related in any way, but it is unlikely. However, US European Command (EUCOM) was responsible for much of Africa prior to the activation of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, explaining the use of the USAFE first word.
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