first published on March 11, 2017 by Josh
During the early part of 2010, new surveillance systems were deployed to positions in Afghanistan that revolutionized force protection. Like their earlier counter-part, the G-BOSS, the Aerostat blimp acted as an all seeing eye for coalition troops. The blimp’s ability to see in 360 degrees, from a highly elevated position, allowed it to survey an entire area of operations in real-time. From this, coalition troops had an unprecedented level of force protection in areas where one of these blimps was present. Also, Taliban activity in these areas would see a drastic decline as the blimp could see everything that was happening for miles and miles around it.
Vision on an area of operations at this level not only allowed coalition forces to stay ahead of the IED teams and ambushes, but it also allowed air strikes to be directed. One of the most difficult things in an airstrike is maintaining positive identification of a legitimate military threat. In places like Afghanistan and Iraq, often the rules of engagement would prevent troops from conducting an airstrike or a fire mission the second they lost track of the enemy’s position. With the Aerostat, it became far more simple to attain and maintain positive identification for the duration of engagements, and the three minute clip in this article is proof of purchase.
Watch below as a Taliban machine gun team try to quickly out maneuver an A-10 that is on station in their area. They are fully aware of the American aircraft, and are making every attempt that they can in order to deceive the pilot. Dressed as normal civilians, as a majority of Taliban fighters do, the gunner of the team conceals his weapon underneath of his clothing in order to make it difficult for the pilot to confirm that they are Taliban. What the fighters don’t know though is that the Aerostat controller has them dialed in, and he is training the powerful cameras directly onto their position. Anywhere they go, the controller can pinpoint with a 10-digit-grid that will then be fed to the stalking pilot.
In order to conduct a strike of this precision in the past, coalition forces would have to bait out an ambush from the machine gun team. While spotting them and engaging themselves would work, they would only be able to maintain that engagement for as long as they themselves had positive identification on the enemy, according to the rules of engagement anyways. Doing this unnecessarily puts coalition troops in danger, and forces them into a scenario where they could be pursuing these guys for hours at a time while the Taliban fighters just continuously evade their positions dressed as civilians. Now we have the Aerostat, and the Taliban have human noodle soup to look forward to.