Intelligence: Eyes In The High Tower


September 13, 2007: The U.S. Army has bought nine more RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) tower systems for use in Iraq. Each one will cost $556,000 and will use a steel tower instead of an aerostat. As the name implies, the basic RAID system is a blimp like aircraft that stays in one place, at altitudes up to 15,000 feet, tethered to the ground by a cable.

The least expensive RAID systems mainly have video cameras (powerful ones, with night vision and zoom capabilities), and some other sensors no one wants to talk about. The army often prefers the cameras to be mounted in a steel tower. While a high altitude aerostat has a radar that can see out to 200 kilometers, smaller towers shorten that range quite a bit. A 30 foot tower can see out to eleven kilometers, the 60 foot tower out to 16 kilometers and 84 foot tower out to 20 kilometers. The 30 foot tower is adequate for most situations, which usually involve guarding a base. There are nearly a hundred of these tower systems in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have proved very effective, sort of a permanent UAV.


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