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PAF’s Drones / Aerostat


Aug 18, 2007
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Drones 2009


Uncrewed lighter-than-air vehicles exploit the drone's freedom from the constraints of human endurance. The systems used operationally by the US Army are the Raytheon/Tcom Raid (Rapid Aerostat Initial Deployment), the Lockheed Martin/ISL-Bosch Aerospace Reap (Rapidly Elevated Aerostat Platform) and the Lockheed Martin PTDS (Persistent Threat Detection System). The Raytheon/Tcom Jlens (Joint Land Attack Elevated Netted Sensor) is being developed to warn deployed US forces of cruise missile attack.

Other nations using aerostat-mounted sensors include Israel, with Elta EL/M-2083 radars on Tcom platforms. India has bought similar systems. Israel also operates the Tcom 32M aerostat with EL/I-3330 radar. Pakistan uses the ILC Dover Tars (Tethered Aerostat Radar System), developed for the US Air Force. The United Arab Emirates use the Tcom Tas (Tactical Aerostat System) with 17M and 71M balloons.

Aerostat Surveillance Systems
The Tethered Aerostat Radar System (TARS) is operated by the US Air Force and uses a series of 420,000 cubic foot balloons equipped with the Lockheed Martin L-88 radar in support of air sovereignty and counter-drug operations. The tethered balloons can be deployed up to 15,000ft and carry wither the AN/DPS-5 S-band or CFAR/MTI and AN/TPS-63 search radars.


The aerostat is a large fabric envelope filled with helium. It can rise up to an altitude of 15,000 feet while tethered by a single cable, which has a maximum breaking strength of 42,600 pounds. The minimum operating height varies from site to site. For example, Cudjoe Key is at sea level; consequently the minimum altitude for this site is 500 feet. On the other hand, the minimum operating altitude at Marfa, Texas, is 4,000 feet due to the mountainous terrain surrounding the site.

The current aerostat network consists of two sizes of aerostats (275,000 cubic feet and 420,000 cubic feet) and two varieties of radars. The 420,000 cubic foot aerostat is about two times the size of the Goodyear Blimp. It measures 208 feet long by 65 feet across the hull, with a tip-to-tip tail span of 100 feet.

The 275,000 cubic foot aerostat lifts a 1,200 pound payload and the 420,000 cubic foot aerostat lifts a 2,200 pound payload to an operating altitude providing low-level, downward-looking radar coverage. The aerostat consists of four major parts or assemblies: the hull and fin, windscreen and radar platform, airborne power generator, and rigging and tether.

The hull of the aerostat contains two parts separated by a gas-tight fabric partition. The upper chamber is filled with helium and provides the aerostat's lifting capability. The lower chamber of the hull is a pressurized air compartment called a ballonet. A sophisticated subsystem maintains constant pressurization of the ballonet, which maintains the shape of the aerostat's hull at all altitudes. The hull is constructed of a lightweight polyurethane-coated Tedlar fabric that weighs only eight ounces per yard. The fabric is resistant to environmental degradation, minimizes helium leakage and provides structural strength to the aerostat.

The windscreen compartment contains the radar and is pressurized by the ballonet. The airborne power generator consists of an airborne engine control unit that drives the generator, and a 100-gallon diesel fuel tank. All systems are operated by the aerostat's telemetry link to start and stop the engine and its generator. Finally, the rigging consists of the flying suspension lines connected to the main tether and mooring suspension lines.

The aerostat radar data is available to NORAD and U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition, this information is available to a blockhouse ground station below, where a flight director, seated before banks of meters and television screens, monitors the aerostat's performance. All radar data is transmitted to the ground station, where it is digitized and transmitted to various control centers for display. Doppler weather radars are also installed at all sites. The sites obtain up-to-date forecasts and weather warnings from the Air Force Weather Agency.

Operators launch the aerostat from a large circular launch pad containing a mooring fixed or mobile system. The mooring systems contain a large winch with 25,000 feet of tether cable. During the launch sequence, the power winch releases the tether until the aerostat reaches operational altitude. When the aerostat is lowered, it is secured to a mooring tower and a rail system. While moored, the aerostat weather vanes with the wind.

Operational availability is generally limited only by the weather (60 percent standard) and routine maintenance downtime, which is minimal. Since the aerostats are stable in winds below 65 knots, the aerostat program provides low-cost, one-of-a-kind radar coverage uniquely suited for its given mission. Notwithstanding weather, aerostat and equipment availability averages more than 98 percent system wide.

General Characteristics
Primary Function: Low-level, downward-looking radar; aircraft detection
Prime Contractor: The sites are currently operated and maintained under contract with Lockheed Martin Systems Management. ILC Dover and Tethered Communications L.P. (T-COM) manufacture the aerostats. Lockheed Martin manufactures the radars.
Volume: 275,000 and 420,000 cubic feet
Tether Length: 25,000 feet
Payload Weight: 1,200-2,200 pounds
Maximum Detection Range: 200 nautical miles
Date Deployed: 1978
Operational Sites: Yuma and Fort Huachuca, Ariz.; Deming, N.M.; Marfa, Eagle Pass, and Rio Grande City, Texas; Cudjoe Key, Fla.; and Lajas, Puerto Rico. Sites located at Morgan City, La., and Matagorda, Texas, are in a cold-storage configuration. Contract management office and logistics hub are located in Chesapeake, Va.


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its good we have this application --- but we should focus more on our own UAV projects

i believe we signed MoU with Turkey in this regard. We already have Integrated Dynamics and other companies who are making drones

So why do we need to import
Many projects are in developments Benazir, Nawas and Musharraf always backed such projects but at moment with present Government it is uncertain to say whether they are supporting some innovative projects or not. Because they do'nt have decision making ability.
wish to see an armed UAV in Pak colors!

it will be of great effect considering the terrain and the enemy we are presently fighting!

we are planning to induct a PAF UAV squadron. I am aware this will be quite soon, no?

if i am not mistaken, Army is using some non-armed UAVs to get aerial surveillance in Swat and parts of Waziristan ---but i read this from an unreliable source
we are planning to induct a PAF UAV squadron. I am aware this will be quite soon, no?

if i am not mistaken, Army is using some non-armed UAVs to get aerial surveillance in Swat and parts of Waziristan ---but i read this from an unreliable source

that has been much talked about now! army is surely operaing UAVs but i am waiting for armed UAVS! i hope we wil get them soon!
chines and turkish cooperation can be helpful in this regard.

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