TCOM wins 2 Government Security Awards for 2017

MARITIME/ PORT SECURITY/ UNDERWATER VEHICLES

Best Maritime Persistent Surveillance ISR Platform
– TCOM 28M AEROSTAT – WINNER

Most Notable Naval Market Situational Awareness
– TCOM – WINNER
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Read the entire article at GOVERNMENT SECURITY NEWS

 

Singapore reorganises military to fight terrorism

Terrorism is the Singapore Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF) top priority, and it has taken numerous measures to defend the island across all spectrums. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen predicted that more fighters will shift their focus to Southeast Asia as the coalition campaign in the Middle East makes progress.

Singapore has been placed on a target list by cyber perpetrators, and to better protect MINDEF’s warfighting networks and cyber infrastructure, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will inaugurate a new C4 Command in November.

This command will integrate the Cyber Defence Group, which was announced in March, with an existing C4 Operation Group. It was revealed that the C4 Command’s strength will reach 2,000 personnel by the end of the decade, and conscripted national servicemen with cyber network backgrounds will be talent scouted.

Another key warfighting network is the Island Air Defence (IAD) system, and it is now linked to new operational sensors like the IAI ELM-2084, ELM-2083 on the TCOM aerostat and the Thales Groundmaster 200 radar. It also taps into the civil aviation authority network to receive seamless civil flight data.

The IAD is further supported by track fusion and a decision support system that evaluates threats and recommends suitable firing units. MINDEF also highlighted that delivery of the Aster SAMP/T will take place within ‘months’.

Singapore in the last decade has been building up its ability to counter airborne munitions and saturated artillery attacks. It has faced threats from a terror cell in Batam, Indonesia that plotted to lob home-made rockets into the city centre.

The Republic of Singapore Navy’s National Maritime Sense-making Group has also employed artificial intelligence and data analytics, fusing data from multiple agencies like the Maritime and Port Authority to detect deviations and suspicious behaviour in commercial shipping. The system saw success on 9 December 2016 when it flagged a merchant vessel carrying contraband.

On the ground, the Singapore Army has set up its Army Deployment Force to patrol alongside homeland security forces. To further meet the demand for such soldiers, an Island Defence Training Institute will be established in late July to further develop homeland security skill sets.

The facility will train 18,000 soldiers annually and will cover search and arrest procedures, plus knowledge of legal powers. Live-firing training for homeland security operations will be carried out via judgmental video simulation training at the infantry gunnery and tactical simulator, which has been updated for such training.

Read full article with photos at Shephard Media

Airships’ time has come in the north

Judy Klassen knows first-hand the importance and the dangers of ice roads. That’s why she endorses the research of cargo airships as a solution to the transportation problems in the north.

The interim leader of the Manitoba Liberal party is the MLA for Kewatinook, a riding that includes more than half the remote fly-in communities in Manitoba. She spoke about ice roads and airships this month in Winnipeg during the Vision Quest Trade Show that highlighted aboriginal businesses, culture and opportunities for economic development.

From her personal experience using ice roads to reach remote communities, Klassen knows to always travel the precarious routes with someone else, never alone. She recounted her own close call, breaking through the ice in her SUV; fortunately, she was close to shore.

Klassen, who is originally from St. Theresa Point, told how her parents made the trek south every winter to load the truck with $1,000 worth of supplies.

This made sense because prices for food and supplies in remote communities are up to three times higher than they are in Winnipeg.

Klassen related her efforts to encourage a healthy diet at the snack bar of her laundromat, but a fresh apple can’t compete with a pop and a chocolate bar when the costs are similar. She reminded the audience that bad diets lead to the epidemic levels of Type 2 diabetes in the north, which result in a huge health-care burden to the taxpayers in the south.

Even if climate change were to reverse immediately, the economic and social conditions in the remote communities would continue to be characterized by high unemployment, bad housing, low incomes, poor health and boil-water restrictions. However, the trend of climate change is well-established and conditions are getting worse.

In the past 20 years, ice roads in Manitoba have lost half of their season. The end of the ice roads is in sight. Then what?

Airplanes are too expensive to replace ice road trucks. Similarly, the cost of building gravel roads is outlandish in a terrain of peat bogs, muskeg, swamps, outcrops and many water crossings. The road-building experience of the NDP government on the east side of Lake Winnipeg should give everyone pause. In six years, they built less than one-eighth of the 852-kilometre total, and added close to $400 million to the provincial debt.

With this background, the discussion at last week’s trade show turned to the potential of cargo airships as an alternative to ice roads and small airplanes.

Global interest in airships is expanding rapidly. Just as in the case of wind turbines and electric cars, entrepreneurs are recognizing the virtues of this green technology and its potential as a cargo transport.

A presentation reviewed the locations of development in France, Germany, England, Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, U.S., Canada and China. The different approaches were compared with respect to the aircraft structure, buoyancy control and ground-handling systems.

Finally, two issues were given special attention from the perspective of service to northern Manitoba — cold-weather operations and ground infrastructure.

Those living in Western Canada understand the impact that temperatures below -25 C have on equipment. Cars do not start, pipes freeze and the railways lose 30 per cent of their efficiency.

It would be foolhardy for any airship developer to simply fly here during the winter season without proper testing. No large hangar exists where airships can go to safely test their equipment in cold-weather conditions. Until there is the ability to prove that cargo airships can operate year-round in Canada, they will not be insurable, if allowed at all.

A hangar for cold-weather testing would also encourage airship development in Manitoba. No airship developer is going to attempt operations, even in the summer, without a base for maintenance and inspections.

Klassen has a remarkable number of firsts. She is the first female MLA to be elected in Kewatinook, and the first Liberal to sit in this NDP stronghold. She is the first female First Nation member to be named the interim leader of a mainstream provincial political party. She is also the first of the current political party leaders in Manitoba to endorse the research of cargo airships as a solution to the transportation problems in the North.

Rather than the NDP government’s 16 years of studying airships, she wants to see the technology put to the test.

The plight of the north demands more than talk.

Barry Prentice is a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba.
TCOM

Read the entire article on Winnipeg Free Press

TCOM Persistent Surveillance Aerostats ideal for Maritime surveillance

TCOM – a global leader for innovative, cost-effective Airborne Persistent Surveillance solutions – joined forces with the Maryland Commerce Department recently to present at this year’s Avalon Air Show in Geelong, Australia.

A TCOM Operational Class 28M.

 

At this year’s show, TCOM was proud to show off their latest aerostat innovations, displaying two posters focusing on maritime and border security for Australia and Southeast Asia. Increasing geopolitical tensions in maritime zones worldwide and in the Asia-Pacific regions have created a strategic impetus to consider new surveillance platforms for identifying real and perceived threats as they become imminent.

Now, more than ever, persistent situational awareness is critical. However, unlike traditional landlocked conflict zones, maritime surveillance presents a unique challenge as ISR must be successful in multi-modal environments including air, land, and maritime environments. Adding to that complexity is the presence of largely populated areas in multiple countries proximate to the conflict zone, making it difficult to select one tool or method to create an effective operational ‘big picture’ for decision makers.

Recently it was widely reported that regional states such as the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, are actively increasing their proactive vigilance. Wisely, they are also considering an all-of-the-above approach for their defenses to ensure full situational awareness with optimized intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for land, air, and sea domains.

TCOM showcased the practical applications for ISR with its 28M aerostat, one of its leading Operational Class aerostats, which are ideal for monitoring areas in which ground-based surveillance would be rendered ineffective by domain obstructions, or where manned aerial surveillance is deemed too costly.

Versatile Operational Class aerostat systems may carry payloads that include radar, SIGINT and COMMS Relay to altitudes as high as 5,000 ft above ground and stay 30 days on station. This makes the systems ideal for maritime surveillance applications, protecting ports and costal borders, as well as inland border surveillance applications.

TCOM’s 28M is one of the most widely-used aerostat systems available today. The 28M offers battle-proven reliability and can be customized with multiple payload configurations to meet the most demanding mission requirements. TCOM Operational Class aerostat systems offer unrivaled versatility and performance. These medium-sized aerostat systems offer both the flexibility and portability for accelerated launch and retrieval, along with the capacity for sustained deployment for up to two weeks at a time.

Consider the scenario of a crowded port environment where many ships and small craft are transiting through highly congested waterways. A naval vessel enters a port but is limited to using surveillance equipment that looks outward from the deck level. There may also be ground-based equipment on shore. Together these systems are unable to see all the critical activity at the water level. A low, fast moving boat quickly approaches a larger vessel undetected by traditional methods.

This scenario occurred in 2000 with the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Aerostat system monitoring the entire port area from hundreds or thousands of feet above would provide early warning to the larger vessel, allowing for a timely reaction. The system could have provided actionable intelligence that allowed for a greater window of time for forces to intercept or engage.

As government decision makers consider using a multi-mode surveillance approach, TCOM’s aerostats stand out in their potential to serve as eyes in the sky in international waters and other maritime regions that have been immersed in perceived threats and real conflict. They are easy to deploy, operate in multiple environments, are efficient and technology-agnostic.

Aerostat systems need little time to deploy and have lower maintenance requirements at a substantially lower hourly operational cost than conventional aircraft and drones. Moreover, aerostats offer a combination of wide viewing angles and high resolution for more precise identification of small objects as well as surveillance of larger areas. In short, aerostats enable true persistent, real-time tactical ISR at an affordable cost.

You can read the entire article on DEFSEC media

 

Aerostats Ideal for Maritime Surveil of Ports & Coastal Borders

TCOM—a global leader for innovative, cost-effective Airborne Persistent Surveillance solutions—joined forces with the Maryland Commerce Department, to present at this year’s Avalon Air Show in Geelong, Australia.

The Avalon Air Show is one of the most prestigious aviation and aerospace events in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 600 exhibitors and 150 delegations. The event is organized by Aerospace Australia Limited, a not-for-profit corporation, whose mission is to promote aviation and the development of Australia’s industrial, manufacturing and information/communications technology resources for aviation, aerospace and defense.

At this year’s show, TCOM was proud to show off their latest aerostat innovations, displaying two posters TCOM Maritime Security Scenarios in Asian Pacific at Australian International Airshow 2017focusing on maritime and border security for Australia and Southeast Asia. Increasing geopolitical tensions in maritime zones worldwide and in the Asia-Pacific regions have created a strategic impetus to consider new surveillance platforms for identifying real and perceived threats as they become imminent. Now, more than ever, persistent situational awareness is critical. However, unlike traditional landlocked conflict zones, maritime surveillance presents a unique challenge as ISR must be successful in multi-modal environments including air, land, and maritime environments. Adding to that complexity is the presence of largely populated areas in multiple countries proximate to the conflict zone, making it difficult to select one tool or method to create an effective operational ‘big picture’ for decision makers.

Recently it was widely reported that regional states such as the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, are actively increasing their proactive vigilance. Wisely, they are also considering an all-of-the-above approach for their defenses to ensure full situational awareness with optimized intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) for land, air, and sea domains.

TCOM showcased the practical applications for ISR with its 28M aerostat, one of its leading Operational Class aerostats, which are ideal for monitoring areas in which ground-based surveillance would be rendered ineffective by domain obstructions, or where manned aerial surveillance is deemed too costly.

Versatile Operational Class aerostat systems may carry payloads that include radar, SIGINT and COMMS Relay to altitudes as high as 5,000 ft above ground and stay 30 days on station. This makes the systems ideal for maritime surveillance applications, protecting ports and costal borders, as well as inland border surveillance applications.

TCOM’s 28M is one of the most widely-used aerostat systems available today. The 28M offers battle-proven reliability and can be customized with multiple payload configurations to meet the most demanding mission requirements. TCOM Operational Class aerostat systems offer unrivaled versatility and performance. These medium-sized aerostat systems offer both the flexibility and portability for accelerated launch and retrieval, along with the capacity for sustained deployment for up to two weeks at a time.

Consider the scenario of a crowded port environment where many ships and small craft are transiting through highly congested waterways. A naval vessel enters a port but is limited to using surveillance equipment that looks outward from the deck level. There may also be ground-based equipment on shore. Together these systems are unable to see all the critical activity at the water level. A low, fast moving boat quickly approaches a larger vessel undetected by traditional methods. This scenario occurred in 2000 with the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. Aerostat system monitoring the entire port area from hundreds or thousands of feet above would provide early warning to the larger vessel, allowing for a timely reaction. The system could have provided actionable intelligence that allowed for a greater window of time for forces to intercept or engage.

As government decision makers consider using a multi-mode surveillance approach, TCOM’s aerostats stand out in their potential to serve as eyes in the sky in international waters and other maritime regions that have been immersed in perceived threats and real conflict. They are easy to deploy, operate in multiple environments, are efficient and technology-agnostic. Aerostat systems need little time to deploy and have lower maintenance requirements at a substantially lower hourly operational cost than conventional aircraft and drones. Moreover, aerostats offer a combination of wide viewing angles and high resolution for more precise identification of small objects as well as surveillance of larger areas. In short, aerostats enable true persistent, real-time tactical ISR at an affordable cost.

 

Download Full Article

About Avalon Air Show:

The Australian International Airshow and Aerospace & Defense Exposition is two concurrent events; an exhibition and trade show, followed by a public airshow.

About TCOM, LP:

TCOM, LP is a global leader of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) solutions of Lighter-than-Air Persistent Surveillance Tethered Aerostat platforms for Air, Maritime, and Land. For over 40 years, the company’s pioneering innovations have defined the persistent surveillance and Lighter-than-Air industries. By blending leading edge technology, manufacturing and field operation capabilities, TCOM has provided ISR systems for the United States and foreign governments with complete persistent surveillance capabilities. Our systems are in use around the globe including theaters of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. TCOM’s delivered systems include fixed-site deployments, fully transportable systems and specialized sea-based deployments. TCOM’s headquarters are based in Columbia, MD and the Manufacturing & Flight Test Facility is located near Elizabeth City, NC. TCOM is the only company in the world devoted to cost-effective LTA surveillance solutions with in-house aerostat and airship manufacture, assembly, flight test, and training capabilities. Learn more at http://www.tcomlp.com

Persistence of Vision – The Key to Asserting National Sovereignty

Surveillance of  Canadian territory in the High Arctic is problematic at the best of times. This is especially true of  the Northwest Passage. The various issues are well understood: lack of infrastructure (while environmental sensitivity restricts the building of future infrastructure); navigational difficulties imposed by both weather and the high latitude; the lack of northern- deployed forces (other than Canadian Rangers) and  long transit  times from southern bases.

When one considers these issues, it appears desirable that Canada find a way to ‘leverage’ a low-cost solution into a  high surveillance return. What we need is a checkpoint – someplace where a persistent surveillance effort can serve as a  ‘tripwire’  for other assets. If suspicious targets were detected quickly,  a more detailed examination could  be made by patrol aircraft from the National Aerial Surveillance Program (NASP) or Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), or by any appropriate Royal Canadian Navy  (RCN)  ships which are operating in the region.

Eyes in the Skies  –  Finding chokepoints in our Northwest Passage to assert Sovereignty Fortunately, a location for our surveillance tripwire exists. At Resolute Bay, Nunavut, site of the Canadian Armed Forces’ Arctic Training Centre, we find  infrastructure and a choke-point in the Northwest Passage. All shipping using the Northwest Passage must  sail  through the waters off  Resolute Bay. All  that remains to be found  is a sensor suite that can monitor the Passage. This may pose a problem due to the fact the channel between Cornwallis Island, on which Resolute Bay is located, and  Somerset Island  is approximately  65 km  (40 miles) wide.

as-nwp-radar-aerostat-daly-1

Ships in the shipping channel can easily be over the radar horizon from Resolute. To achieve a radar horizon of  40 nautical miles (74 km) we would need to mount that radar on a tower of just over 1000 feet (300 m). Building a 1000-foot  tower in the Arctic, capable of withstanding Arctic environmental conditions, would not be easy … or cheap. And pity those brave souls who would face the herculean and terrifying task of servicing the radar once it was mounted!

“Up, Up [but not] Away”?  Inflatable Aerostats as potential  Arctic Surveillance ‘Platforms’ Enter the aerostat, a form of non-rigid, inflatable, tethered airship. Similar to the blimps of old, the aerostat is a more refined descendant. Gone are the days of fragile gasbags filled with hydrogen,  just waiting  to be destroyed. Gone too are the limitations of purely visual observations. The modern aerostat can lift a surveillance radar to 10,000 feet (3 km) or higher and  keep it there for as much as 30 days. Modern aerostat surveillance systems have become more common since the 1980s,  with major defence contractors such as Raytheon and IAI/Elta offering turnkey systems.

IAI has sold a number of systems, including recent sales to India, where they will be used to monitor India’s border with Pakistan. Raytheon’s  JLENS system [1] offers a second aerostat fitted with a fire control radar  – which greatly extends the detection and engagement range of air defence units.  JLENS employs a strategic class 74M aerostat manufactured by TCOM LP in North Carolina. Of greater significance to Canada is another TCOM aerostat, the 71M.

The TCOM 71M can be fitted with a wide variety of sensors, and can operate at altitudes of up to 4,572 metres (15,000 ft)  for up to 30 days. Were the 71M aerostat to be mated with the AN/APS-508 radar set from the CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft,  that system could  ‘see’  out to  370 km – the maximum detection range for  that  radar. That  370 km range, against a large surface target, combined  with Resolute Bay’s location would mean continuous coverage of  any surface contact  for a staggering  740 km. A 740 km coverage range  means that, even for a ship transiting the Northwest Passage at a dangerously fast 20 knots (37 km/h), a ‘target’ vessel remains under surveillance for 20 hours.

Calling in Back-Up: Radar surveillance by Aerostat with confirmation by manned aircraft

To assert Canadian sovereignty over the Northwest Passage, radar coverage would need to be more comprehensive. Two additional locations for aerostats suggest  themselves. One is on another choke-point on the Passage – Cambridge Bay on Victoria Island. The other on the western approach to the broad entrance to the Passage – Tuktoyaktuk near Amundsen Gulf.
The use of aerostats may seem ambitious but the Canadian Forces has experience. [2] Then there are economic considerations. RCAF NorPat (Northern Patrols) have been infrequent due to the costs of flying the CP-140 Aurora patrol aircraft up from their southern bases. Operating costs for a TCOM 71M aerostat are reported as less than 20% of  that for a fixed-wing surveillance aircraft and require half  the manpower of aircraft capable of  doing the same job. [3]  But savings are possible in ‘manned’ aerial response too. NASP patrol aircraft are based at  Inuvik (near Tuktoyaktuk) and plans were announced to expand NASP. That promise could  be fulfilled by basing new NASP aircraft at Iqaluit near the eastern approaches to the Passage. The CP-140s can be held for solely military response.

Flying at cruising speed, an RCAF  CP-140 Aurora aircraft can be overhead at  Resolute Bay less than 5 hours after its launch from CFB Comox. The chances of any ‘target’ ship escaping detection, and subsequent aerial  identification and  monitoring by a CP-140, are virtually nil.

Each of our three hypothetical aerostat installations on the Northwest Passage would have a circular radar coverage out to 370 km. Each aerostat will have a total coverage area of 430,000 square kilometres giving a combined total coverage of around  1.29 million square kilometres.

The on-site facilities required for 71M aerostats are comparatively simple. The scale of the TCOM 71M is greater than  Canadian Armed Forces  personnel are used to. Then again, the CAF  had  no  aerostat experience at all  before deploying  tactical airships into Afghanistan. Operating a 71M  is no different than other tethered lighter-than-air  craft. Likewise, operating these radar  would be very familiar to the CAF  –  the AN/APS-508 having been used by the Aurora patrol aircraft for years. Training and parts for this Telephonics radar set are well established.
If Canada is to claim the Northwest Passage, we must be able to conduct robust surveillance and control of our waterways. An aerostat allows for such persistent surveillance, with more detailed monitoring as required. Manned aerial patrols add credibility to our territorial claims but, by using commercially-based NASP aircraft, this need not be excessively expensive. [4] This combination of tethered aerostats and manned surveillance aircraft represents a greatly increased oversight of  Canada’s Northwest Passage.  Perhaps it is time to  ‘use it  or  lose it’.

[1] JLENS stands for Joint Land attack cruise missile defense Elevated Netted Sensor system

[2] Canada’s smaller, tactical TCOM 28M RAID (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment) systems were operational in Afghanistan for ground surveillance use (along with Eagle Eye towers).

[3] The savings claim comes from Raytheon. Actual economy will depend upon aircraft type. According to the Parliamentary Budget Office, Aurora cost per flying hour is $19,750.00. That translates into nearly $200K for each flight to the North and back to the southern base.

Aerostats in Action

Tim Compston, Features Editor at Security News Desk and SecurityMiddleEast.com speaks to Matthew McNiel, Vice President of Business Development at TCOM – a global leader in this field – about why the deployment of aerostats for border protection, emergency management, and security applications is taking off.


Persistent Surveillance

With a wide array of aerial surveillance systems now available in the marketplace – including drones – the obvious question to put to TCOM’s McNiel, at the start our discussion, is what can tethered aerostats bring to the table over and above that available from other platforms? In response, McNiel stresses that the primary advantage aerostats provide centres on their ability to deliver a long duration on station: “This translates into substantial cost savings when contrasted with airborne assets such as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and manned aircraft. These systems typically remain on station for a matter of an hour, while aerostats remain on station for days.” The upshot of this reality, reckons McNiel, is that to maintain 24/7 coverage multiple aircraft are required: “Generally, this results in a very high ‘op-tempo’ for the aircraft and requires even more assets to account for maintenance down time.” By contrast he points out that a single aerostat can provide a 24/7 persistent on-station presence for, potentially, weeks at a time and also requires minimal downtime for maintenance.

Deterring Illegal Activity

Another factor which McNiel flags up in aerostats’ favour is the way that they offer the sort of deterrent effect not seen with other competing airborne surveillance platforms, citing the US border as a case in point: “For decades, strategic aerostats have surveilled the US southern border in support of anti-narcotics trafficking and illegal immigration, virtually eliminating small plane flights in the Southwest and fundamentally affecting “go-fast” boats in the Caribbean. This is due in part to the highly effective intelligence gathered by the on-board sensors, but also greatly influenced by the very obvious nature of the aerostat itself,” says McNiel.

Aerostats In Action
The Right Class

McNiel then goes into more detail on the classes of aerostat systems. He reports, for instance, that tactical aerostat systems – 12M, 17M, 22M and 28M – are basically multi-modal and ideal for deployment on land, to maritime domain awareness sites, or directly from a vessel at sea: “These aerostats can be assembled and deployed in just a few short hours, and manned by a minimal crew. The system can carry payloads including day/night EO/IR cameras, radars, communications relay and more.” Beyond this, he reveals that with larger size aerostat systems – 22M, 28M – comes a greater capacity to allow ‘operational class’ systems to operate at higher altitudes for a greater surveillance range while, in addition, remaining aloft for up to two weeks at a time: “This ensures round-the-clock persistent surveillance for highly trafficked areas and maritime borders.”


Increasing Demand

As we have witnessed terrorism becoming global, and borderless, McNiel reckons that the need to use effective ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) in maritime and land borders is becoming more and more of a strategic requirement: “Consider the scenario of a crowded port environment. An aerostat system, equipped with sensor payloads, is capable of monitoring the entire port area, for example, including activity at the water level because it is looking down from hundreds or thousands of feet above. The system can detect threats and provide leaders with actionable intelligence with a greater window of time to enable forces to intercept or engage,” he explains.
McNiel adds that, as a result of this heightened threat level, TCOM is seeing growing interest in applications similar to the one that the vendor has fielded previously in Italy: “In this case, Italy turned to TCOM to deliver an affordable, persistent sea surveillance system that would provide comprehensive monitoring of the Otranto Strait and Italian coastline. The system, identified as SAACS (South Adriatic Aerostat Coastal Surveillance System), used a larger TCOM Tactical aerostat configured with a multi-mode search radar, a stabilized day/night camera suite and a V/UHF transceiver.” In operation, McNiel says that the radar provided the early long-range detection and tracking of smugglers using compact, quick moving small boats and rafts: “It then cued the camera to provide timely actionable intelligence which was transmitted to remotely-located Navy command and control centres, and to Navy Patrol Ships nearby,” he explains.


Changing Times

To conclude our interview, talk turns to how the nature of the aerostats – and the sensors they carry – has changed in recent years. McNiel is keen to underline the fact that, as technologies that combine big data, analytics, and sophisticated infrared and telecommunications advance, TCOM has demonstrated how its lighter-than-air tactical aerostat platforms can leverage ever more innovative ISR applications: “This is from providing high-definition Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) to precision geospatial-location sensors for persistent surveillance and enabling the latest 4G LTE cellular coverage in times of emergency.”


Incident Management

McNiel points out that for domestic terrorism situations domestic response units must be prepared to respond rapidly to threats and that aerostats have a key role to play here: “It is important to establish persistent surveillance swiftly with maximum interoperability and real-time ISR Surveillance insights for commanders on the ground. First responders need to assess situations to determine the scope of what they are dealing with, where they might be located, differentiate who in the area might be a potential threat and evacuate civilians.”
Moving on to disaster relief scenarios, such as the major fires earlier this year in Western Canada, as well as annual hurricanes and other natural disasters, McNiel believes that these are instances where Wide Area Motion Imagery (WAMI) deployed at a high elevation on an aerostat would be extremely useful: “Technologies designed for the battlefield are perfectly suited to address threats to the homeland and can be applied to solve and alleviate the duties of domestic first responders,” says McNiel.
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http://blog.intersecexpo.com/aerostats-in-action

 

TCOM Electronics Technicians Keep Company’s Aerostats Flying High

Inside an enormous hangar that once launched World War II Navy blimps, TCOM, L.P. manufactures and assembles airships and the lofty aerostats that are used for air defense systems and surveillance around the world. A key to the Elizabeth City, N.C. operation is an inventory of fine-tuned machines—and the technicians who keep them running.

Bradley Perkins and Rick Anderson are electronics technicians who work in TCOM’s sealer maintenance shop. They keep in top working order the machines that seal the seams of the lighter-than-air aerostats.

Aerostats are unmanned, tethered balloons filled with helium to keep them aloft. Outfitted with radar and communications systems, the aerostats made at TCOM are now a critical part of air defense systems used in Kuwait, Israel, India and Iraq.

“Any interruption in the aerostats’ operation could compromise the mission, ” said TCOM Site Operations Manager Charles Knauss. “Completely flexible, aerostats have no internal structure, so sealing together the laminate material that contains the helium is integral to their success.”

That’s where Perkins and Anderson come in.

Working from TCOM’s sealer maintenance shop, their job is to replace and maintain the head and feet on the industrial-sized heat sealer machines. Using 480 volts of electricity, the hand-sized head and the shoe-sized foot clamp together to heat and seal the seams along the gigantic aerostats that range in size from 17 to 74 meters. That’s a machine you want to have in top shape when you’re constructing a balloon intended for air defense overseas.

“When this machine goes down, production goes down,” explained Anderson. “We need to make sure the machines are maintained properly for this function.”

In addition to maintaining the heat sealer machines, Perkins and Anderson keep a battery of mechanical devices in working order—the inspection equipment, on which workers examine the thin aerostat laminate for flaws; the plotter cutter machines that cut the material according to design; and the blowers used to inflate the deflate the aerostats in testing.

Every 60 days, they run a top-to-bottom inspection of all 34 machines—checking connections, bearings, pins, and cables, in addition to changing all the filters.

“We deal with expensive equipment, and there’s a long lead time to get it replaced,” said Perkins. “One little slip-up can cause havoc.”

Putting it together
As long as he can remember, Perkins has enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. With a keen interest in electronics, he took as many related courses as he could when he was a student at Gates County High School, including computer language classes and math. After graduation, he enrolled in the two-year computer engineering program at College of the Albemarle (COA). That’s where he learned about TCOM through the college’s co-op program that places students with on-the-job learning experiences.

For Perkins, it was a good fit—and a smart career move. When he graduated with an associate’s degree in 2005, he went to work full-time with TCOM.

“The co-op program gave me the chance to learn more about what TCOM does and really apply what I’d learned in the classroom,” he explained.

Anderson will complete the same COA program this year. After he works the first shift at TCOM, he goes home to hit the books through the college’s distance learning courses, conducted online. His background as an ASE-certified mechanic has helped.

“I started working on cars because I owned a 1988 Ford Escort and needed to keep it up. I’m self-taught,” Anderson said. “And I’ve always been fascinated with computers, wanting to know what’s inside that box and all that goes on.”

Perkins’ and Anderson’s pride in their jobs shows as they go about their work at TCOM. In a spacious manufacturing room next to their shop, material for a 74-meter aerostat is stretched out along the length of the floor. It will take workers up to three months to construct it. Anderson is busy switching out parts on one of the heat sealer machines, while Perkins checks other devices in the room that will be instrumental in the successful completion of the balloon.

“We’re kind of like the behind-the-scenes backbone of the company. You might not notice us when things are running smoothly. But once a machine isn’t functioning or breaks down, we’re the ones that get the call,” said Perkins. “What we do here is important.”

———————————————–Read the Entire Article and see Photos HERE

Singapore enhances aerial, maritime surveillance capabilities with 55 m aerostat

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has begun local tests of a 55 m tethered aerostat system that was acquired to enhance the republic’s continuous airborne radar coverage and maritime surveillance capabilities.

Key Points

  • The Singapore Armed Forces has taken delivery of a 55 m tethered aerostat
  • System will enhance the republic’s persistent aerial and maritime surveillance capabilities

The aerostat, which was unveiled to the media on 29 November 2016, will be operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. (IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat)The aerostat, which was unveiled to the media on 29 November 2016, will be operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force. (IHS/Ridzwan Rahmat)

The system, which can detect aerial and seaborne threats at distances of up to 200 km, will be operated by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) at the Choa Chu Kang Camp, which is located in the western part of the island.

The aerostat is operated by a ground crew of eight personnel, and has a maximum operating height of 2,000 ft (600 m). The setup comprises a helium-filled airframe, a tether cable made of Kevlar, a mooring station, a high-strength winch system, and a suite of unspecified sensors.

The system, which was originally planned for deployment in 2015, was unveiled in a media event on 29 November in conjunction with a visit by Singapore’s defence minister Ng Eng Hen to the aerostat’s intended deployment site.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of his visit, Ng described the aerostat as a system that has been acquired to overcome the country’s lack of suitable high points from which it can deploy suitable radars that can complement the SAF’s existing network of ground and aerial sensors.

“All of us recognise that Singapore is a very small island, and that alone makes us very vulnerable to threats either from the air or sea,” said Ng, who then cited the 2010 Mumbai terror attacks as an example of what can happen should seaborne adversaries not be detected in time.

“The very fact that we have [the aerostat system] adds another layer of defence, and confidence in terms of what we are able to detect with regards to aerial and maritime threats,” he added.

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TCOM, Global Leader of ISR Tethered Aerostat Solutions, invited by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) to Share Innovative Maritime Border Solutions

TCOM, a global leader of ISR Tethered Aerostat Solutions, is honored to announce it was invited to share its latest innovative solutions for maritime border security by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex), at the first European Coast Guard Cooperation Network meeting. Held in Warsaw, Poland on November 8-10, the event highlighted the new agency’s expanded role in the maritime arena.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (evolved from Frontex in September 2016) stands at the center of Europe’s efforts to expand international cooperation on carrying out various coast guard functions. In addition to border control, these include: maritime safety, security, search and rescue, fisheries control, customs, law enforcement and environmental protection. Its extensive presence at EU maritime borders makes Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, an ideal platform to facilitate cooperation between national law enforcement, customs and other authorities operating in the maritime domain and European agencies as part of European Integrated Border Management.

In multi-purpose operations, vessels and aircraft deployed by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency cooperate with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to spot sea pollution and other possible violations of maritime conventions. Alongside the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA), Frontex collects and shares information to be used to detect illegal fishing. The agency also closely cooperates with Europol and law enforcement bodies of Member States to combat serious cross-border crime, including trafficking of human beings and terrorism.

One of the objectives of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is to keep the EU Member States/Schengen Associated Countries and other stakeholders informed about new technological developments in the field of maritime border control.

During the meeting, TCOM presented the usage of Tactical Aerostats for Maritime Domain Awareness. Aerostat systems have the payload size, weight and power capacity to support high-performance maritime radars. With an advanced maritime radar, a single sea surveillance system can track maritime targets at distances of 60 nautical miles and cover thousands of square miles for weeks at a time. In addition to the radar, the aerostat can simultaneously support passive surveillance payloads like COMINT, SIGINT, and ELINT, thermal imaging and optical sensors, as well as communications payloads at the lowest possible hourly cost for an airborne asset. The early detection and direct communications with air and sea assets afford the critical window of time to evaluate the situation, coordinate forces, and engage.

The gathering brought together representatives of more than 40 different national authorities of EU member states, including coast guards, navies, border police, customs and maritime authorities. Also in attendance were representatives of various EU agencies, other EU bodies and three international organizations (UNHCR, Interpol and NATO), as well as officials from eight non-EU countries, including the United States, Australia, Libya and Morocco.

According to Frontex, “Maritime operations account for the largest share of the budget of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard. Spending on them already surpasses EUR 100 million annually, almost four times the amount Frontex had spent on sea operations just two years earlier.” Joint operations, such as Triton in Italy and Poseidon in Greece, make Frontex an ideal platform to develop cooperation between national law enforcement, customs and other authorities operating in the maritime domain and European agencies.

About TCOM, LP:

TCOM, LP is a global leader of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR) solutions of Lighter-than-Air Persistent Surveillance Tethered Aerostat platforms for Air, Maritime, and Land. For over 40 years, the company’s pioneering innovations have defined the persistent surveillance and Lighter-than-Air industries. By blending leading edge technology, manufacturing and field operation capabilities, TCOM has provided ISR systems for the United States and foreign governments with complete persistent surveillance capabilities. Our systems are in use around the globe including theaters of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. TCOM’s delivered systems include fixed-site deployments, fully transportable systems and specialized sea-based deployments. TCOM’s headquarters are based in Columbia, MD and the Manufacturing & Flight Test Facility is located near Elizabeth City, NC. TCOM is the only company in the world devoted to cost-effective LTA surveillance solutions with in-house aerostat and airship manufacture, assembly, flight test, and training capabilities. Learn more at http://www.tcomlp.com

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