When it comes to airborne surveillance, the cost of gathering intelligence from the air is high. Whether agencies are using manned flights or UAVs, the aircraft are expensive to operate and come with other limitations. Like the fact that they can’t stay up in the air forever; fuel has to be replenished, aircraft need maintenance, and human pilots and operators need breaks.
That’s why many military forces around the world have turned to another kind of aircraft to supplement their surveillance missions: the aerostat.
An aerostat is a helium-filled balloon tethered with a fibre-optic cable and equipped with radar and imaging technology. It floats high above the ground (some can go up to 20,000 feet), watching silently and communicating actionable intel with forces on the ground. Optical and thermal imaging sensors offer an expansive 360° view of the surrounding area.
These low-maintenance aircraft can operate 24/7 for weeks or even months at a time, offering an incredible line-of-sight. No plane or drone can do that. That’s why aerostats are also referred to as “persistent surveillance.” They see all, all the time.
“Persistent surveillance allows you to understand where the enemy are, what they’re doing, how you can begin to counter them, how effective you are in countering them, and to make timely decisions on the battlefield that ultimately save lives,” says Lt. Gen, Keith Stalder, USMC (ret).
When you can see for miles, there are no surprises
One unit can monitor hundreds of square miles – from its place high in the sky, it can see activities from the placement of IEDs, to attacks being set up on convoys, to meetings between persons of interest. It can detect low-flying aircraft and cruise missiles before they can enter striking distance. And once the sensors identify a threat, the communications equipment relays information quickly, giving ground and naval forces time to evaluate – and engage if necessary.
“It’s absolutely essential to any commander in future operations,” says Lt. Gen. Jan Huly, USMC (ret). “Whether they’re deploying for presence or actual combat operations, it provides a link to the information and intelligence network that is going to be reliable 24/7 for long periods of time.”
WESCAM technology creates 24/7 overwatch capability
Field proven, with years of mission experience, an aerostat equipped with WESCAM MX-Series systems are essential assets for military bases, naval surveillance and agencies monitoring borders and airspace. EO/IR sensors allow for ongoing detection in daylight, low light and nighttime conditions, giving forces total domain awareness at all times of day.
WESCAM technology provides defence agencies around the world the tools they need to protect the countries they serve. To find out more about our technology, check out WESCAM.com or visit us on YouTube. You can also visit us on Twitter at @L3WESCAM. If you are interested in talking with someone about how L3 WESCAM’s products and services can help improve your mission success please email us at sales.wescam@L3T.com