Chaff Launch

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Force Protection

The trouble with base camps is that they provide tempting targets for enemy forces. To protect the base camp requires tying up a substantial number of troops to keep an eye on the perimeter. Now the Army is exploring the use of technology to move the detection range farther away from the fence line. This article describes some of the tools that might be used.

The capability of the raised sensors to view terrain a good distance away from fixed Army locations for long periods of time has been proven successful as a force protection measure both in Afghanistan and Iraq recently, said Col. Kurt Heine, JLENS program manager. Due to security concerns, Heine said he could not give specific examples of the RAID system in combat, but reported that commanders really liked its capabilities.

“Imagine, if you will, that you can see people (and) cars from afar in the dark when you couldn’t before,” Heine said in reference to RAID combat successes.

The RAID system has been in use in several locations in Afghanistan since spring 2003 and in Iraq for about nine months. Two systems have also been used to support Navy force protection in the Central Command area under “Operation Code Blue.”

The key component of the system is the sensor -- basically a television camera with zoom lens, infrared for viewing at night and a laser range finder, Heine said.

The area the system can cover is dependent on terrain and height -- the higher, the better, Heine said.

Most of the systems currently being used are on towers. The Army has 19 RAID towers. They are a mix of 84-foot quick-erect and 30-foot and 60-foot telescope mast towers.

The Army is also using three15-meter aerostats -- large blimp-shaped, helium-filled balloons -- which are tethered to its truck transports to get the RAID sensor above the battlefield. Some of the aerostats have taken enemy fire without any major mishap, Heine said. “We just patched it up, topped it off with helium and sent it back up,” he said.

However raised, the sensor is networked to a Base Defense Operations Cell. The cell has monitors that show what the camera sensor is looking at and a digitized map with overlays with an icon depicting the map location of what the sensor is focused on.

Using aerostats to raise the sensors increases the area that can be effectively surveilled. Use of all weather sensors increases the possiblity of detection of hostile forces before they can get into position to do harm to our troops.

The approach sounds pretty similar to the Navy's Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Radar Sonar Surveillance Center (RSSC) AN/TSQ-108(V4) vans, used for port security and other operations. Heres' the Navy set up:

It adds up to a great new force protection tool.

Update: Corrected posting date

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