One of the Coalition Forces’ most valuable assets in its new age war in Afghanistan has a distinctively old school look about it.
Aerostats – similar to blimps and hot air balloons that have been used by militaries for more than 100 years – equipped with high powered video surveillance capability have been quite effective in detecting insurgent activity, such as the planting of Improvised Explosive Devices.
In a September 28 USA Today article by Tom Vanden Brook, Under Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s top acquisition officials, reportedly said that more than 30 aerostats are currently deployed in Afghanistan, with a goal of having 64 of them tethered above military bases and major roads.
Included among the aerostats being used in Afghanistan is Lockheed Martin’s Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS). Since 2004, the Army has ordered 37 PTDS from Lockheed Martin for use in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Filled with helium, PTDS provides low-cost, continuous communications and persistent surveillance capabilities not possible with other types of manned and unmanned aircraft. Attached by a high-strength tether to a re-locatable mooring system, PTDS carries different types of surveillance equipment to conduct multiple missions.
British forces are now using PTDS and according to a September 26 article by Christopher Leake in the Daily Mail of London, the systems are “hugely effective ‘spies in the sky’ to snare Taliban fighters before they mount attacks on British troops.”
The article quoted a senior source as saying, “The Taliban are starting to realise that these barrage balloons can see and hear everything, so the enemy can run but they cannot hide. Where these have been used, we have seen a reduction in the threat. An added benefit is that the local community feel safer as we quickly make them aware of the balloon’s capabilities… The technology is amazing. The bad guys haven’t got a clue about exactly how much we can see and hear.”
To read the complete USA Today and Daily Mail articles, please click on the following links: