WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- The United States will be expanding its use a balloon-based surveillance system in Iraq.
The U.S. Army awarded a $77.5 million contract to Lockheed Martin for the Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS), which uses a large balloon tethered to the ground as a platform for cameras and other sensors to monitor the area around high-value assets and installations.
Referred to as an "aerostat" system, the PTDS was first deployed in Iraq two years ago. The new units will be delivered to the military within the next several months, Lockheed said Wednesday in a news release.
"Aerostat surveillance systems give the Army the reliable and constant information and intelligence collection capability vital to protecting deployed personnel and high-value assets," said Lockheed's Ron Browning. "Our team is committed to completing the PTDS production and integration to field the systems as quickly as possible."
Aerostat systems have been used by the United States since the 1980s to monitor the Mexican border and the Caribbean region for drug smugglers. They have also been developed for the deployment of radar and communications equipment.
The fabric, helium-filled balloons are based on the old barrage balloons used by allied forces during World War II. The PTDS balloon can carry a 500-pound payload of electro-optical/infrared camera gear to an altitude of 2,500 feet.