Aerostats, as platforms for sensors, have been called obsolete many times in the past. But it seems that practicalities are outweighing any attempt to retire the system because the need is still strong.
And the need is strong, according to Israeli companies. Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Aeronautics are reporting booming business.
Aeronautics is competing on a large number of sensors carrying aerostats in Brazil and IAI has recently delivered a multirole persistent surveillance radar system mounted on an aerostat platform to a foreign customer.
The needs of the customers vary, from optical payloads to high-end radars that can detect low-flying platforms.
IAI, which makes some of the most advanced sensors, says that the tethered aerostat solution enables the detection of low-flying and surface targets at the radar’s maximum range by mitigating the curvature of the earth and terrain-masking limitations.
The radar system supplied to the unnamed client was developed by IAI subsidiary Elta Systems.It is based on IAI/Elta’s ELM-2022A multirole radar.
It detects and automatically tracks maritime and airborne targets, from small periscopes to large maritime vessels in high seas conditions and in high-density coastal environments.
The radar includes a ground moving target indication (GMTI) mode for detection of moving targets. An infrared/electro-optical (EO/IR) system is installed on the aerostat and integrated with the radar, allowing enhanced identification capabilities.
The persistent single platform concept permits the customer to benefit from multi-sensor coverage of air, sea and ground, while lowering surveillance costs and integrating tactical target management.
The system can be operated locally and remotely and can be deployed to different areas of interest as a primary sensor or gap-filler.
The aerostat sensor system has recently passed acceptance testing and is in the final stages of delivery to the end-user.
“This novel concept, which allows for multi-sensor, multirole target detection and management, will be one of the first operational multimode aerostat platforms of its kind,” says Nissim Hadas, IAI’s corporate vice-president and Elta Systems’ president. “It follows IAI/Elta’s tradition of innovation and provides the customer with high performance cost-effective solutions.”