|Aerostat and Airships|
The use of balloons for military operations goes right back to the earliest days of flight. Although fixed wing aircraft quickly replaced them, balloons continued to have their uses.
Today balloons and other lighter-than-air systems are generally referred to as Aerostats and a number of companies manufacture aerostats equipped with radar and other surveillance systems. A permanently deployed aerostat surveillance system can provide a low-cost long-endurance capability not possible with a fixed wing aircraft. Many of the current helium filled aerostats can be deployed and operated by a crew of just 2 people.
Designed for coastal, air and ground surveillance gathering and as a communications relay, the Aerostat is easy to deploy and can provide coverage for up to 30 days.
Operated by a small crew with little need of much logistical support, a aerostat can provide a considerable capability for relatively small cost. However, they cannot be launched in high winds, so must be backed up by other complimentary fixed wing systems. Nevertheless, these aerostat systems are being continually refined and improved and probably will soon be a common fixture wherever Armed Forces are deployed.