The US Army has taken delivery of its first three Skystar-180 tactical aerostat systems in southern Afghanistan, with the equipment primarily intended for use in a force protection role.

Delivered by Israel's RT LTA Systems, in partnership with Fairfax, Virginia-based Focus Consulting & Services, the systems are due to be followed by a further three aerostats scheduled to arrive in August.

The Skystar-180 is a small tactical aerostat which carries a Controp T-Stamp electro-optical/infrared sensor. This provides 360° coverage from an altitude up to 1,000ft (305m).

Once airborne, the payload is operated from a portable control unit which displays real-time imagery and the exact coordinates of objects of interest.

The Skystar-180 is a trailer-based, towable system, which can be easily redeployed to alternate locations using a light military vehicle.

Other Skystar systems are already in use by customers worldwide, including Canadian forces in Afghanistan, Israeli defence forces and the Israeli police.

RT LTA Systems is a subsidiary of Aeronautics Defense Systems - one of Israel's leading manufacturers of unmanned air systems.

Source: Flight International