Operation Tusker Sand
Primary Operating Location: Entebbe, Uganda
Start Date: 200?
End Date: Ongoing?
Summary: Operation Tusker Sand provided manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) support to US counter-terrorism efforts in Northeast Africa, including Operation Observant Compass. This effort involved overflights of the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and South Sudan (prior to becoming an independent nation in 2011, this region was part of Sudan). The aircraft operated out of Entebbe, Uganda, which was also the primary operating location for aviation elements operating in support of Observant Compass. It is unclear whether the Tusker Sand aircraft, which were contractor owned and contractor operated, were officially assigned or attached to any US military aviation element, but it was highly likely that they utilized the same or otherwise related facilities for their operations. Tusker Sand intelligence was processed by the Kampala Combined Intelligence Fusion Center, which predated Operation Observant Compass and was part of an agreement in place by 2009 between the Ugandan government and the US to provide intelligence support to the Uganda People’s Defense Force.
On 17 May 2010, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced a presolicitation for Africa Command ISR Initiative Operations (Aii Ops) contract. The Tusker Sand mission was a component of this larger initiative. The proposed Tusker Sand team would consist of at least 14 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. Data transfer and related systems would be provided, along with a ground control/intelligence fusion element. 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.
On 25 June 2010, the Aii Ops contract was delayed indefinitely. Tusker Sand continued as a separate effort. The selected contractor reportedly used a Beechcraft King Air aircraft (C-12 equivalent) instead of the preferred type stated in the contract. Other similar projects utilized various types of aircraft, so it is possible that more than one type was in use. A signals intelligence (SIGINT) capability was also reportedly added to the system.
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