Military Review

Raven Aerostar balloons for the US Army: their features and benefits

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No less than 9 balloons have taken part in tests over both coasts of North America over the past week. People who watched the flights noted the amazing ability of balloons to fly against the prevailing winds.


According to The Drive author Adam Kehoe, the balloons are owned by Raven Aerostar, a division of Raven Industries headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. In recent years, Raven Aerostar has actively partnered with Alphabet on the Loon project to expand Internet access to rural populations.

Special balloons have been developed just for this program. They can perform long flights at high altitudes. However, in January 2021, the Loon project was closed, after which Raven Aerostar focused on testing the capabilities of balloons with the aim of using them in other sectors, for example, in the field of intelligence and defense.

The balloons, as Adam Kehoe writes, are derivatives of the Thunderhead Raven Aerostar balloons. These Thunderhead balloons are designed to be positioned in any area for a wide variety of applications. According to Raven Aerostar, balloons are capable of performing reconnaissance, surveillance, communications, and navigation systems.

The Thunderhead is an ultra-high pressure balloon with a nacelle containing a payload, flight system and solar panels. Inside the balloon is another, smaller balloon called a "ballonet". It acts as a ballast and is the central component of the balloon's steering system.


Air is injected into the cylinder using a pump, which allows the cylinder to change its weight. Balloon operators cannot control course or speed, but the balloon itself uses wind patterns at different altitudes for navigation. The balloon flight time can exceed 30 days.

In July 2020, Raven Aerostar released data highlighting its ability to linger at extremely high altitudes above contested airspace. According to the company, the creation of a network of balloons allows for reconnaissance of the area. After all, the payload of the balloon can be data collection systems, electronic warfare kits. At the same time, the flight altitude makes balloons unattainable for traditional air defense systems.

The recent appearance of balloons on the coasts of North America is connected precisely with testing the ability of balloons to perform special tasks in the interests of the US Army. Tests of networked radio systems Silvus 4400E and Silvus 4200E on high-altitude balloons were declared as the main purpose of the flight.

It also noted that the company is testing its new HiPointer 100 solid-state X-band radar technology platform. The balloons are being tested near Norfolk, Virginia, under a special permit valid from April 5 to October 2, 2021. However, unlike balloons, tests of the HiPointer 100 are unlikely to be carried out at a significant distance from the naval base in Norfolk.
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  1. The leader of the Redskins
    The leader of the Redskins 18 May 2021 19: 53
    +1
    It is interesting.
    And in 1981 we saw another balloon over our city. Intelligence. It "hung" for half a day with a silvery dot.
    Then, it seems, all the same the air defense men shot down him and he fell about five kilometers outside the city.
    1. hirurg
      hirurg 18 May 2021 19: 58
      0
      Are the Americans really concerned about protecting their territory?
      1. Mavrikiy
        Mavrikiy 18 May 2021 20: 18
        0
        Quote: hirurg
        Are the Americans really concerned about protecting their territory?

        Intelligence, written the same. To our garden.
        They grease the picture with electronic warfare and plant, he himself will bleed the gas, but not shoot down.
        1. hirurg
          hirurg 18 May 2021 20: 25
          +2
          I didn’t understand anything, but it’s very interesting.
      2. figwam
        figwam 18 May 2021 20: 39
        0
        Quote: hirurg
        Are the Americans really concerned about protecting their territory?

        They want to fly to someone else's territory, with impunity.
        1. Nikolaevich I
          Nikolaevich I 19 May 2021 01: 10
          0
          Quote: figvam
          Are the Americans really concerned about protecting their territory?

          They want to fly to someone else's territory, with impunity.

          It is worth remembering the transcontinental high-altitude bombing balloons of Japan in the forties of the last century ...
      3. isv000
        isv000 19 May 2021 00: 00
        -1
        In their understanding, their invulnerability is firmly rooted, after all, they are behind a puddle ...
    2. SERGE ANT
      SERGE ANT 18 May 2021 20: 27
      +9
      Quote: Leader of the Redskins
      in 1981 we saw another balloon over our city.

      I fully admit that the next large-scale wave of launches of automatic balloons took place in 1980-1981. It was associated with the deployment of American cruise missiles and Pershing-class ballistic missiles in Western Europe. Small balloons flying at low altitudes were launched along the planned flight routes of these missiles to improve the accuracy of missile guidance and to calculate the permanent dynamic error as a result of the influence of wind loads. These were automatic balloons in the form of an ellipsoid, pear-shaped and spherical eggs. A self-destruct pyramid, a solar droplet pyramid, which allows receiving the energy of the Sun at all angles of its height, and a battery with an energy capacity for 12 hours of operation were attached under the shell. The launch sites for the small balloons were the NATO optoelectronic test site on the island of Lollan (Denmark) and the aerospace test site in Kiruna in northern Sweden.
      Air defense personnel shot down and he fell

      It is unlikely, due to the fact that from a tactical point of view it was impossible to shoot down small balls either by planes or air defense systems, and from an economic point of view it was very unprofitable to destroy them with anti-aircraft and aviation means, an unexpected and very ingenious decision was made ... to catch the balls with a net attached to a helicopter, in the prices of those years, the cost of hitting one small balloon by a helicopter was equal to several thousand rubles, and by an airplane - several million.
      1. Vladimir_2U
        Vladimir_2U 19 May 2021 03: 21
        +3
        Small balloons flying at low altitudes were launched along the planned flight routes of these missiles.
        This is the first time I hear about such an application of balloons, rahmat-thank you-bayarlaa! hi
      2. ccsr
        ccsr 19 May 2021 13: 04
        0
        Quote: SERGE ant
        I fully admit that the next large-scale wave of launches of automatic balloons took place in 1980-1981.

        If we are to rely on facts, then full-scale launches of balloons against the USSR began in the fifties and they were carried out until the first half of the sixties of the last century.
        Quote: SERGE ant
        It was associated with the deployment of American cruise missiles and Pershing-class ballistic missiles in Western Europe. On the planned flight routes of these missiles, small balloons were launched, flying at low altitudes and intended to improve the accuracy of missile guidance and calculate the permanent dynamic error as a result of the impact of wind loads.

        The Pershing are still ballistic missiles, and there is nothing for them to carry out such research at all. But for cruise missiles, such data is needed, but at low altitudes they would be destroyed after crossing the borders of the Warsaw Pact countries, especially since they had to transmit information and their direction finding was not so problematic already at that time.
        As for the current high-altitude balloons, their cheapness, efficiency and long-term flight will make them promising means of reconnaissance for those theaters of operations where there are no serious air defense and electronic warfare systems, so this program has a future. And it would not hurt us to intensify the development of such a technique, since we have already entered Syria, and it seems we will not stop at it ...
    3. mat-vey
      mat-vey 19 May 2021 04: 20
      +1
      Quote: Leader of the Redskins
      It is interesting.
      And in 1981 we saw another balloon over our city. Intelligence. It "hung" for half a day with a silvery dot.
      Then, it seems, all the same the air defense men shot down him and he fell about five kilometers outside the city.

      And the Venusians saw the same thing:
      "The descent vehicle separated from Vega-1 on June 9, 1985, on June 11, an aerostatic probe and a landing module entered the Venusian atmosphere (at Vega-2, these events took place on June 13 and 15). Most of the time, the probe flew at an altitude of about 50 km, where the pressure and temperature are lower and in general conditions are similar to those of the Earth (except for the chemical composition). It worked for about 46 hours, thus becoming the longest-lived device on Venus. During this time, the probe flew about 11 600 km. the surface of the planet, collecting information about the composition of the soil in the mountainous terrain. "
      https://elementy.ru/kartinka_dnya/1045/Aerostat_na_Venere
  2. knn54
    knn54 18 May 2021 19: 54
    +2
    Inflated aviation in the GOOD sense of the word.
  3. xorek
    xorek 18 May 2021 20: 41
    -7
    The United States no longer knows to come up with another idea against the Russians .. bully
    They can have a lot of money, but we are in the old fashioned way, but simple and reliable ..
  4. nnm
    nnm 18 May 2021 20: 42
    +1
    People who watched the flights noted the amazing ability of balloons to fly against the prevailing winds.

    In a sense, textbooks on physics can be rewritten, or is it, at different heights, different directions of air currents?
    Or is it something like tacking?
    1. agond
      agond 18 May 2021 21: 06
      +4
      Quote: nnm
      In a sense, textbooks on physics can be rewritten, or is it, at different heights, different directions of air currents?

      Forecasters say that at different altitudes, the direction of faith often does not coincide
      However, it is interesting how the ball shell reacts to the laser beam.
      1. nnm
        nnm 18 May 2021 21: 18
        0
        It also depends on the color. Do you propose to uncover "Peresvet"?)))
    2. dauria
      dauria 19 May 2021 00: 29
      +1
      Or is it something like tacking?


      Except that when lifting, and then when descending, it is necessary to use some kind of profile or a plate that looks like a wing. In the horizontal plane, freebies will not work if there is no vertical air flow.
      I didn’t understand one thing. Do they take ordinary air into this internal "ballonet" as ballast directly from the atmosphere with a pump? Then the shell must hold increased pressure. Otherwise, how can you change the overall density for descent and ascent?
    3. Normal ok
      Normal ok 19 May 2021 07: 59
      +1
      When firing artillery, a "meteorological" table is compiled where it is taken into account that every 10 meters in height, the speed and direction of the wind change.
  5. Well done
    Well done 18 May 2021 22: 19
    +2
    My grandfather told me that they shot down reconnaissance balloons in batches, already after the Second World War, somewhere in the Urals. They made from the remains of a diaper, a plow and somehow nets for fishing (?). The grandfather was supposedly an artilleryman, he went through the whole war, covered in scars .. he didn’t say something.
    1. isv000
      isv000 18 May 2021 23: 58
      0
      Maybe he didn’t talk about catching a forty-five? ...
  6. isv000
    isv000 18 May 2021 23: 57
    -3
    S-400, like, takes up to 35 km in height. Or has Powers' example already been forgotten?
    1. aries2200
      aries2200 19 May 2021 02: 18
      +1
      powers shot down at an altitude of 21 km
  7. Nikolaevich I
    Nikolaevich I 19 May 2021 02: 11
    +1
    In November 1944. the Japanese began "massive" bombing of US territory with bombing balloons

    This was Japanese retaliation for the bombing of Japan with B-29 bombers ... A group of scientists and designers at the University of Tokyo proposed using natural atmospheric air currents moving at high altitude over the Pacific Ocean. Unmanned balloons with bombs became the Japanese "weapon of retaliation". They were named "Fu-Go"
    The design of the balloons was simple and very economical. The shell of the sphere, about 10 meters in diameter, was filled with volatile hydrogen and lifted the gondola (frame with attachments) with a load of up to 450 kilograms to a working height of 10 thousand meters.

    The prototypes were made of rubberized silk. Later, due to a lack of materials, they decided to glue the casing from a special thick Japanese paper made from the bark of local plants. As conceived by the engineers, the balloon was supposed to reach an altitude where intense air currents would pick it up and carry it in the direction of the North American continent. According to calculations, the drone crossed the US border in three days, having covered about 8 thousand kilometers. An automatic device was responsible for controlling the flight altitude. This autopilot, depending on the situation, either dumped ballast - and the balloon rose, or vented hydrogen - and the balloon went down. The design provided for a special timer. After the specified flight time, a high-explosive fragmentation bomb and four incendiary grenades were detached from the balloon. This was followed by a self-destruct charge: the Japanese did not want the Americans to quickly find out about their secret ... Of the more than nine thousand aircraft that took off, according to available data, about three hundred balloons reached the coast of America. There was no significant damage, no massive forest fires, which the Japanese military was especially counting on. Accidental victims of "Fu-Go", as is often the case in war, were the civilian population: a woman and five children died.

    KANZAS February 23, 1945
    The Americans really liked the idea of ​​using high-altitude balloons, they developed and applied it for reconnaissance and espionage during the Cold War, especially since the Americans had to admit that the balloons were not an easy target: they moved quickly at high altitudes and were invisible to imperfect radars. ...

    .