Feeds

US Army doubles fleet of enormous floating eyes

'Beholder'-esque aerostat blimps spy Afghanistan

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

The US Army is doubling its fleet of moored spy balloons, deployed in overseas warzones to provide continuous unblinking overwatch around fortified American camps and bases.

The 74K Aerostat, as used in the PTDS System. Credit: Lockheed

Giant, floating, all-seeing eyes in the sky r us

Arms behemoth Lockheed Martin announced yesterday that it has been awarded a $133m contract to provide a further 8 Persistent Threat Detection Systems (PTDS) tethered aerostats, supplementing the 9 already in service overseas.

The PTDS is based on Lockheed's 74K (74,000 cubic foot) helium aerostat design, produced at the stupendous Airdock in Akron, Ohio - where the mighty flying aircraft carriers of the pre-war US Navy were built by Goodyear-Zeppelin in the 1930s, although nowadays it is owned by Lockheed. It's understood that the PTDS aerostats carry a ground-sweeping radar and accompanying thermal-camera systems, able to pick out moving objects across a wide stretch of terrain and then zoom in to identify them.

Such motion-detector/spyeye systems are also routinely deployed in other ways: manned or unmanned aircraft, or atop a fixed tower. Aerostats offer more height and thus more sweep area than is feasible with a tower - the 74K operates 1,500m up - and are able to stay up much longer and more cheaply than aircraft. They are invaluable for maintaining a watch over the area around a base, for instance, making it much harder for insurgents to mount rocket or mortar attacks or plant bombs in the vicinity.

The price of $16m apiece might seem a little high for a moored balloon, but this includes the sensors, ground station, supporting vehicles and generators etc.

The only thing lacking would seem to be a proper name: PTDS is frankly a bit dull. Given that we're talking about a huge, vaguely globular thing floating in midair with a variety of eyes on it, it seems hard not to suggest "Beholder" as an alternative. ®

Bootnote

For those unfamiliar with the Dungeons & Dragons monster portfolio, there's some explanation of Beholders here.

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
LIFE, JIM? Comet probot lander found 'ORGANICS' on far-off iceball
That's it for God, then – if Comet 67P has got complex molecules
Rosetta probot drilling DENIED: Philae has its 'LEG in the AIR'
NOT best position for scientific fulfillment
'Yes, yes... YES!' Philae lands on COMET 67P
Plucky probot aces landing on high-speed space rock - emotional scenes in Darmstadt
HUMAN DNA 'will be FOUND ON MOON' – rocking boffin Brian Cox
Crowdfund plan to stimulate Blighty's space programme
THERE it is! Philae comet lander FOUND in EXISTING Rosetta PICS
Crumb? Pixel? ALIEN? Better, it's a comet-catcher!
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Post-pub nosh neckfiller: The MIGHTY Scotch egg
Off to the boozer? This delicacy might help mitigate the effects
I'M SO SORRY, sobs Rosetta Brit boffin in 'sexist' sexy shirt storm
'He is just being himself' says proud mum of larger-than-life physicist
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
New hybrid storage solutions
Tackling data challenges through emerging hybrid storage solutions that enable optimum database performance whilst managing costs and increasingly large data stores.