TCOM, L.P. is pleased to announce it will be displaying its latest ISR capabilities at the World Defense Show, being held in Saudi Arabia on March 6-9, 2022. Come and meet us at our booth (K-13) U.S. Pavillion. Founded by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries, World Defense Show is a fully integrated and future-focused defense event set to highlight the latest technological developments from across the globe. To schedule a meeting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by and meet our team. See registration info at https://registration.worlddefenseshow.com/rfg/publish/WDS22/simplereg.aspx
TCOM, LP, is pleased to announce today it has won the 2020 Platinum Award for Best Persistent Aerial Surveillance and Monitoring Solution in 2020 in the Astors’ Homeland Security Awards Competition, held by American Security Today magazine. According to the award committee, TCOM’s lighter-than-air Best Persistent Aerial Monitoring Aerostats are providing the U.S. Homeland Security and U.S. Army communities with the most cost-effective aerial persistent surveillance solutions with the promise of integration of new ISR sensors that can watch borders, maritime, and other scenarios efficiently and with cutting-edge innovation.
Persistent surveillance aerial aerostats remain in critical military demand, particularly at a tactical level as part of all of the above doctrines of Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance (ISR). For example, in late September 2019, the US Department of Defense awarded a $979 million contract to TCOM – to perform work on the Persistent Surveillance Systems – Tethered (PSS-T) program, a range of medium and large tactical aerostats that provide ISR, force protection and communications capabilities to a range of users. The PSS-T aerostat fleet provides a flexible and affordable capability comprising medium and large-size aerostats to provide persistent, integrated, networked, and multi-sensor information collection via long periods of operation altitude that maximizes lines of sight and field of regard on onboard systems. TCOM’s systems support requirements for Homeland Security on the U.S. southwestern border, as well as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the Horn of Africa, providing persistent surveillance, force protection, and ISR missions, as well as communications extensions. The platforms’ primary advantage is their ability to provide extended time on mission and at an advantageous cost, with aerostats providing great flexibility for operating multiple capabilities simultaneously. Of special notice, TCOM, LP was also recognized as the top solution for persistent surveillance ISR for homeland security in 2019, 2018, and 2017 ‘ASTORS’ Homeland Security Awards Programs.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
Aerostat Payload Gallery
TCOM is the global leader in airborne persistent surveillance solutions, providing actionable intelligence rapidly and reliably in the world’s most challenging operational environments. TCOM aerostat systems can accommodate various payloads including communications equipment, radar, infrared, and video surveillance. Payloads can be customized to meet any mission over air, land or sea.
74M Aerostat Gallery
View images of TCOM 74M aerostat systems. TCOM is the global leader in aerostat persistent surveillance solutions, providing total domain awareness over air, land and sea. TCOM systems provide affordable and economical persistent surveillance for military, defense, law-enforcement, border security and communications applications.
71M Aerostat Gallery
View images of TCOM 71M aerostat systems. TCOM is the global leader in aerostat persistent surveillance solutions, providing total domain awareness over air, land and sea. TCOM systems provide affordable and economical persistent surveillance for military, defense, law-enforcement, border security and communications applications.
Designed to meet mission objectives in any domain
Customized for air, land and sea surveillance applications
Affordable, reliable persistent surveillance solutions
TCOM Aerostat Classes
TCOM Provides Tethered Aerostat Persistent Surveillance Solutions to RAID Program in Iraq and Afghanistan
Case Study Facts:
- U.S. Forces in Iraq lacked effective perimeter surveillance for forward operating bases
- Troops at high risk of enemy attack
- U.S. Military deployed RAID program
- TCOM 17M tactical aerostats deployed in bases throughout Iraq
- Larger TCOM Aerostat systems deployed in Afghanistan to relay surveillance and communications information rapidly and reliably
- TCOM aerostat persistent surveillance systems save lives
TCOM Persistent Sea Surveillance System Improves Maritime Security in Italy
Case Study Facts:
- Italian Officials faced challenge from smugglers and illegal immigrants during Bosnian conflict
- Small, fast-moving vessels difficult to detect by conventional methods
- Navy cutter patrols were extremely costly and inefficient
- TCOM SAACS persistent aerostat surveillance system provided total domain awareness
- Italian officials were able to monitor, track and intercept smugglers
- Italian law enforcement effectively curtailed incidences of illegal immigration
- Authorities obtained the actionable intelligence needed to ensure coastal security
TIMELY DEPLOYMENT OF TCOM AEROSTAT SYSTEM SAVES LIVES IN KUWAIT
Case Study Facts:
- Kuwaiti borders vulnerable to attack
- Government needed total surveillance solution to monitor air, land and sea
- TCOM 71M LASS System deployed
- Timely deployment enabled rapid detection of invasion forces
- Radar Operator at LASS site alerted Kuwaiti Forces
- Enabled safe departure of Kuwaiti Royal Family
- TCOM aerostats remain critical component of Kuwaiti border security strategy
- Kuwaiti citizens are safer thanks to TCOM persistent surveillance systems
Support from Start to Finish
TCOM provides single point responsibility for the overall system performance and continuing aerostat support essential for the reliable and consistent performance of the Aerostat Surveillance System.
After the system has successfully completed all its formal testing at our Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility, it is shipped to the customer. TCOM’s Field Operations & Support (FOS) group, supported by TCOM’s headquarters design and systems engineering groups, provides the in-country expertise for on-site installation, on-the-job training and integration into existing networks.
The Turnkey Installation Solution Includes:
- Site survey, design and construction
- Installation of the aerostat subsystems that make up the aerostat system
- Integration of the aerostat system with the site infrastructure
- Payloads integration including providing connectivity with the customer’s command centers and data/communications network
- On-site formal classroom training and/or on-the-job-training (OJT)
- O&M support as required
- Logistics support to integrate spares and support equipment into a tracking database
Experienced Personnel Ensure Success
TCOM FOS pools of field engineers have trained and experienced personnel with the skillsets to supply a turnkey aerostat support solution from installation and checkout (I&CO) of the system to when the system is handed over to the customer for operation and maintenance (O&M). TCOM has installed aerostat systems in more countries than any other aerostat system manufacturer.
Advanced Aerostat Manufacturing Facilities
TCOM produces the most advanced, state-of-the-art and reliable aerostat systems in the world. This is accomplished by having the latest aerostat manufacturing technology, equipment, facilities and tooling to bring our advanced designs to life. We offer capabilities and experience manufacturing aerostat and airship flex structures, mooring stations, avionics, tethers and ground support equipment.
Complete Systems Manufacturing
TCOM is the only LTA Company in the world that has a facility devoted to aerostat manufacturing, airship manufacturing, assembly, flight test and training operations – all in a single location. We manufacture the world’s largest aerostats and are capable of manufacturing, inflating, rigging, and testing them all while protected from the weather inside our hangar. We also perform integration and flight testing onsite at our new flight pad. Our aerostats are manufactured using highly engineered, TCOM-designed base fabric. The fabrics are then seamed together using specialized equipment designed by TCOM for the sole purpose of building our flex structures. Once assembled, they are air inflated and tested, then inflated with helium. After helium inflation, the hardware and rigging is installed which prepares the aerostat for integration with the rest of the system.
Our new, state-of-the-art mooring station manufacturing facility is conveniently located adjacent to the hangar. All assembly and testing of the mooring stations is conducted in this central facility. Prior to integration with the aerostat and surveillance components, the mooring stations are passed through a rigorous acceptance procedure to ensure all functionality. Once the mooring structure, boom, tower, and other major portions are assembled together, integration of the machinery, electrical and hydraulic systems takes place. The system’s avionics are also designed and manufactured by TCOM in an environmentally controlled area located at the headquarters facility. After all the components are procured and inspected, material kits are put into the shop for assembly and unit testing. TCOM employs a highly trained and experienced staff dedicated to wiring all the electronic items for the aerostat, mooring system and ground station. In addition, we build swivel slip-rings and perform tether termination and break testing, and perform thermal cycling and stress testing.
Once all of the electronics components have passed unit test, they are assembled together as a functional system and fully tested against rigorous acceptance standards. If payloads are available, they can be integrated at the electronics manufacturing facility or later with the complete system at the hangar. After the aerostat, mooring system, and avionics subsystems are completed, they are integrated together at the new flight pad, located at the Manufacturing Flight and Test Facility. Flight tests then begin as the complete system functionality is tested.
The Elizabeth City aerostat Manufacturing and Flight Test Facility enables TCOM to provide customers with an unparalleled level of quality assurance, training, ongoing operations and field support services. This facility has become the East Coast hub for all airship maintenance and assembly activities. The ability of TCOM to manufacture complete systems, rather than just sub-assemblies, provides us the flexibility to change quickly when needed to accommodate our customers’ needs.
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