Military Review

Intelligence balloons in service with the US Army

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29 on May 2012, Lockheed Martin completed the delivery of PTDS (Persistent Threat Detection System) balloons under the latest contract for the 29 group of the US Army. Since the start of this program (2004 year), the company has supplied 66-like systems to the US military in order to provide American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with round-the-clock surveillance. PTDS are tethered balloons that are equipped with sets of various sensors. These balloons can be airborne for up to several weeks or even a month, providing the military with cost-effective observation and reconnaissance capabilities. These balloons are attached to mobile mooring systems using high-strength cables and are able to carry a set of payloads to carry out several missions at once.


According to the representative of the company Lockheed Martin Collin Arthur, the use of PTDS balloons can improve the safety of military personnel. Situational awareness of troops in real time helps identify improvised explosive devices, other threats, as well as the movement of the enemy. Aerostats PTDS are produced in several versions and can be used around the clock for reconnaissance, all-round observation, early warning radar, and signal relay.

Already after several months after the creation of the balloon, Lockheed Martin delivered the first model to the troops, which was used during the operation of Iraqi Freedom. PTDS almost immediately became quite an important factor in ensuring the safety of American bases and in 2006, the military ordered a new batch of balloons. The capabilities of this system were proven during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. As the demand for these systems increased, Lockheed Martin increased its own production capacity. The assembly of balloons is conducted in the city of Akron in Ohio.

Intelligence balloons in service with the US Army

Balloon reconnaissance and sentinel complexes (ARDK) of the new generation were included in the combat units of the coalition forces, along with other means of ensuring security. According to American military experts, the use of ARDK has reduced combat losses, as well as increased the effectiveness of advanced troops. At the same time, in the 2012 year (compared to the 2011 year), the supply of balloons to the troops increased. In Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, where dozens of aeronautical observation complexes of the PTDS type (shell volume more than 2100 m3) are already used, also deliver less effective reduced ground observation systems PGSS - Persistent Ground Surveillance Systems.

Modern balloon systems PTDS and PGSS are equipped with sound and optoelectronic intelligence, as well as various communication repeaters. Balloons are able to conduct round-the-clock observation of the terrain in all conditions for a distance of 20 km. They allow you to easily determine the position of the shooting enemy.

Currently, the US military is also using the REAP system - Rapidly Elevation Aerostat Platform, which is a joint development of the companies "Lockheed-Martin" and "ILS Dover". This system is characterized by the possibility of operational (no more than 5 minutes) deployment. This system includes: tethered aerostat (volume 73,62 м3, length 14,84 meter, lifting height up to 100 meters, payload mass up to 16 kg) with onboard optoelectronic surveillance systems: night and day video cameras 1LS Mkl; IR 250 infrared reconnaissance equipment from Reyteon (from a height of 100 meters it can detect a target at a distance of 35 km); as well as ground equipment, which is installed on the Humvee.


In addition to the above systems, the US Air Force deployed in Afghanistan a radar observation system TARS - Tethered Aerostat Radar System, developed by ILS Dover. The basis of this aerostat system is an attached aerostat (volume - 11 900 м3, length - 63 meter, lifting height to 4 500 meters, payload mass - to 550 kg). The balloon is installed on-board radar AN / TPS-78.

In 2009, the command of the US military has set an industry mission to create a cheaper security system for army units operating in front-line areas and areas in which there is an increased level of threat of terrorist activity. In the first half of 2010, in Arizona, at the Hume test site, before sending to the theaters of war, the first sample of the PGSS complex was tested (700 shell volume m3, filled with helium). The balloon is able to operate at altitudes up to 600 meters and carry a payload weighing up to 70 kg. According to the statements of the military, this program was created not to compete with the PTDS project, but to supplement it in order to optimize the size of the aircraft, as well as reduce their cost.

The balloon complex includes the 4 main components: a helium balloon envelope, which is designed for continuous operation even in adverse weather conditions; cable-tross, which provides the balloon with a fixed position of the device and reliable and safe communication with the dispatcher on the ground; mooring system, which is installed on the car chassis and equipment for the implementation of round-the-clock surveillance.

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The deployment of the reconnaissance complex is carried out within 2 hours. After that, the aerostat platform is lifted with a payload - standard equipment installed on board. The equipment installed on the balloon makes it possible to detect such a target as a vehicle at a distance of 18 kilometers, and a person at a distance of 12 kilometers from the complex. At the same time, identification can be carried out from a distance of at least 4 km.

PGSS balloons in addition to the implementation of round-the-clock video monitoring of the surrounding area are able to scan the space for the presence of electromagnetic and infrared radiation, as well as all sorts of acoustic manifestations. Thus, the balloon can collect sufficiently complete intelligence information, on the basis of which reconnaissance of the area is carried out and tactics of further actions in different conditions of the situation are calculated.

If we talk about the vitality of this complex, then experts believe that outside the survey area of ​​the PGSS the use of small weapons it is inefficient to put the balloon out of action, and if it is located in the zone controlled by the balloon, any actions dangerous for it can be stopped by the deported security team. Any shot of the alleged terrorist will be immediately recorded and will lead to countermeasures in response. In addition, even if the balloon is broken through, it will not fall to the ground so quickly, together with the payload it will simply fall to the ground.


At present, according to the existing bilateral agreements between Romania and the United States, a training center for training in the use and maintenance of American PGSS balloon balloons was opened in Romania in 2012. The training center was deployed in the territory of the reconnaissance brigade of the Armed Forces of Romania in the city of Buzau. Along with the American and Romanian military, it provides for the possibility of training military personnel from other NATO countries. The teaching positions in the center are occupied by American specialists. The course of study consists of training and obtaining skills in filling balloons with helium, lifting and mooring the apparatus, controlling the winch, as well as the procedure for assessing the situation on the basis of data obtained from the balloon. The term of training of specialists is 6 months, the calculation for servicing 1 aerostat consists of 5 people.

All costs of creating this training center and equipping it with the necessary material and technical means, including the existing models of ARDK, were assumed by the American side. The costs associated with the current activities of the center will be covered by the financial resources allocated each year by the Washington Ministry of Defense of Romania in the form of financial assistance.

The Romanian Ministry of Defense, as part of maintaining its participation in the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operation in Afghanistan, sent additional intelligence units from the national armed forces to the country. In August 2011 of the year, the calculation of ARDK PGSS as part of 10 servicemen was transferred to Afghan territory. This unit was formed from the military intelligence brigade (Buzau) of the military intelligence headquarters of the Romanian armed forces, which received special training in the United States. The equipment, which is currently in service with this unit, was transferred by the American army to the Romanian side for the period of its participation in joint military operations with the US Army in Afghanistan.


The main efforts of the Romanian PGSS-armed unit are focused on obtaining intelligence data to ensure successful operations of the mixed Romanian-American brigade, which performs its tasks in the territory of Zabol province. In addition, this unit is also used to solve other reconnaissance tasks on the territory of Afghanistan that are located in the zone of responsibility of the command of the coalition forces of the South. The permanent location of the unit is the base of the coalition forces in the village of Kalat (Zabol province).

Today, the basis of onboard equipment of reconnaissance balloons is made up of reconnaissance and surveillance systems, which can be placed on the external sling (frame or cable type). Modern radars, various optoelectronic equipment, equipment for combat command and communication teams, as well as various acoustic sensors can be installed on board balloons. At the same time, the ARDK ground complex includes: mooring equipment universal for carriers, which allows for circular receiving of aerostat in azimuth depending on wind direction with a descent mechanism (automatic winch) and lifting, power supply system, as well as a control point in container design .

The main advantage of the use of balloons over unmanned and manned reconnaissance aircraft military experts recognize: a very long flight duration (from several days to a month); relatively low cost of operation and maintenance, due to the absence of engines on the balloons, and hence the cost of fuel and the development of the resource; reduced (no more 6 people) calculation; high combat survivability and noise immunity of data transmission lines, as well as versatility of use with one major drawback - a relatively small viewing area, which is caused by the stationary placement of the balloon.

Information sources:
- http://vpk.name/news/69997_lockheed_martin_zavershila_postavku_aerostatov_ptds_po_poslednemu_kontraktu_armii_ssha.html
- http://pentagonus.ru/publ/aehrostatnye_sistemy_v_vooruzhjonnykh_silakh_ssha_2012/10-1-0-2329
- http://pentagonus.ru/publ/osobennosti_ehkspluatacii_aehrostatnogo_razvedyvatelno_dozornogo_kompleksa_pgss_v_afganistane_2013/108-1-0-2399
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  1. svp67
    svp67 14 May 2013 07: 44 New
    0
    An interesting development, that's just used against an enemy with weak air defense ...
    1. Atrix
      Atrix 14 May 2013 09: 20 New
      +6
      Quote: svp67
      An interesting development, that's just used against an enemy with weak air defense ...

      Enough here to talk about poor air defense, she’s already tired of reading such posts. Either UAVs can be used only against poises, then airplanes cannot be used where there is air defense. What for then do something we put everywhere air defense and you can sleep peacefully. First, you need to know the level of EPR, maybe there the size of a small bird will be, then suggest how they gathered? And the second one, is it written somewhere that it will take balloons in areas with air defense? They’ll hang this crap over the base or guarded object and it will monitor all day and night that who the hell is not suitable for tagging. And the third strong air defense is which countries (except for Russia and China, if there is another war there)?
      1. Sirocco
        Sirocco 14 May 2013 18: 05 New
        0
        Quote: Atrix
        Enough here to talk about poor air defense, she’s already tired of reading such posts.

        In this situation, based on the worst case scenario. You can bring down this unit from the winding, machine gun, and other technical means, delivering the subject of destruction to the object. Banal cut dough. And the sense of ZERO.
        . In addition, even in the event of a penetration of a balloon, it will fall to the ground not so quickly; along with the payload, it will simply drop to the ground.
        And so it is possible to infinity, fell, rose, fell rose, and all in business and work. laughing
        1. Atrix
          Atrix 14 May 2013 19: 42 New
          +2
          Quote: Sirocco
          this situation, based on the worst case scenario. You can bring down this unit from the winding, machine gun, and other technical means, delivering the subject of destruction to the object. Banal cut dough. And the sense of ZERO.

          Have you read the article? Or do you immediately click the circuit breakers in your head if not made in Russia, then the air defense gets off? For shooters like you cite the data from the article
          Modern balloon systems PTDS and PGSS are equipped with sound and optoelectronic intelligence, as well as various communication repeaters. Balloons are able to conduct round-the-clock observation of the terrain in all conditions for a distance of 20 km. They allow you to easily determine the position of the shooting enemy.

          The equipment installed on the balloon allows you to detect such a target as a car at a distance of 18 kilometers, and a person at a distance of 12 kilometers from the complex. At the same time, identification can be carried out from a distance of at least 4 km

          Or you have already learned how to shoot a rifle at a range of over 12km, so then you do not write nonsense here, but go directly to the army, there you need such specialists.
          1. Lopatov
            Lopatov 14 May 2013 21: 55 New
            0
            Dear, absolute weapons do not exist. No surveillance tool can give a 100% guarantee. And so you can bring down such a device.
            1. Atrix
              Atrix 14 May 2013 22: 56 New
              +1
              Quote: Spade
              Dear, absolute weapons do not exist.

              Of course does not exist. But does it make sense to go down an Aerostat over the base in order to bring down, if for example you are found on the approaches with a probability of 80% (this is an example) and destroyed by mortar fire or UAVs? These things do not fly in the war zone, they were not created for this.
              Quote: Spade
              No surveillance tool can give 100% guarantee. And so you can bring down such a device.

              You can shoot anything. Another question is what kind of victims and the appropriateness of these victims and the benefits received.
              1. Lopatov
                Lopatov 14 May 2013 23: 14 New
                0
                Quote: Atrix
                But it makes sense to go down the Aerostat over the base in order to bring down something, if for example you are found still on the approaches with a probability of 80%

                The Americans’s base is not always in a clean field on a flat, like a table terrain.
                The point is to provide another operation. for example, mortar shelling of the base.
    2. zaazua
      zaazua 15 May 2013 00: 57 New
      -1
      it is radio-transparent, so the radars do not see it, and it sees you from 5 kilometers!
  2. avt
    avt 14 May 2013 10: 05 New
    -1
    Quote: svp67
    An interesting development, that's just used against an enemy with weak air defense ...

    Generally without air defense.
  3. Bongo
    Bongo 14 May 2013 10: 27 New
    +2
    For some reason, not a word that they are used on an ongoing basis, on the border with Mexico?
    1. Professor
      Professor 14 May 2013 14: 57 New
      +1
      Not only with Mexico, but also in Florida on Key West.
  4. rudolff
    rudolff 14 May 2013 12: 24 New
    +2
    Great systems! Cheap and cheerful. For the protection of bases, field camps, state borders, coastal zones you can hardly imagine. Even in the event of destruction, a small loss. Yes, and patching up a leaky shell in most cases will not be so difficult. Helium gas is inert, does not burn and does not detonate.
    1. Lopatov
      Lopatov 14 May 2013 13: 55 New
      0
      It’s not very cheap there. Look at ours with Irkut-1A. He did not find a special distribution
      1. beard999
        beard999 14 May 2013 18: 08 New
        +1
        Quote: Spade
        Look at ours with Irkut-1A. He did not find a special distribution

        So "Irkut-1A" could not find any "distribution". The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation was not interested in them. 1L275 http://www.npostrela.com/en/products/new-dev/100/261/?print=Y is planned or on the "Tiger" http://rosaerosystems.ru/files/newss/foto1_449.jpg from " Avgur-Rosaerosistemy ", or on" Relight "http://www.dkba.ru/services/vozduhoplavatelnaja-tematika/images/peresvet.jpg? from DKBA. It depends on who wins the MO competition. By the way, the option with ECO is also planned to be put on balloons of these types.
        1. Lopatov
          Lopatov 14 May 2013 19: 07 New
          0
          "Aragvi" still perform other functions, this is the radar. Irkut-1A has other tasks.
          1. beard999
            beard999 14 May 2013 22: 09 New
            0
            Quote: Spade
            Aragvi "nevertheless performs other functions, this is a radar. Irkut-1A has other tasks

            I don’t know if I understood you correctly. If you are talking about the mass of the target load of Irkut-1A, then this is exactly what I meant. Why MO aerostat http://irkut-uav.ru/upload/files/irkut1a59.pdf with a payload weight of 8 kg and an ECO detection radius of 3 km? As I wrote above, for Tiger and Peresvet, the target load can be not only from the radar, but also from the ECO. Moreover, there the ECO, according to Golubyatnikov, at a distance of 14 km allows you to confidently recognize people's faces, and the maximum detection range of manpower and equipment is even greater. And in general, for Irkut, in general, the UAV theme is quite secondary, not to mention balloons ... But for Avgur and DKBA balloons and airships, this is their main activity. Because MO works with them.
  5. mga04
    mga04 14 May 2013 13: 43 New
    +1
    And we are moving in this direction - in the photo is a product of the Chuguev Aircraft Repair Plant.
    1. Atrix
      Atrix 14 May 2013 14: 34 New
      +1
      Quote: mga04
      And we are moving in this direction - in the photo is a product of the Chuguev Aircraft Repair Plant.

      And whose equipment? And then I think to inflate the ball is not a big problem smile But making an apparatus for observation is already problematic what
  6. ICT
    ICT 14 May 2013 17: 36 New
    +1
    for clarity of application
  7. gregor6549
    gregor6549 14 May 2013 18: 23 New
    0
    And such developments were in the USSR. Including early warning radar based on a tethered balloon. So all this new is not completely forgotten old
  8. Lrentz
    Lrentz 14 May 2013 19: 06 New
    +1
    Such should constantly hang over the bases, over the main routes - to fix the preparation of mining, and the destruction of convoys !!! I think you can survive the loss of such a ball, the lives of people in ambush are much more important.
  9. alean245
    alean245 14 May 2013 21: 40 New
    0
    Mdaaa ... And where are our cougars?