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