What we know about the high altitude balloons that persist off the coast of the United States recently
Their recent appearance on both coasts of the United States seems to be a test of this networking ability. Federal Communications Commission records reflect an approved license for one of Raven Aerostar’s subsidiaries, Aerostar Technical Solutions, to fly balloons within two hundred miles of Vista, Calif., May 9-30. of this year.
The stated objective is to test the networked radio systems, the Silvus 4400E and the Silvus 4200E, on balloons at high altitude. While the app only lists locations in California, other matches in the FCC records show a conversation about allowing additional locations on the East Coast:
The company appears to have aggressively continued its balloon tests in recent years, with experimental radio license applications going back at least to February 2020. Balloon tests had already been approved and conducted in the southeast and south. -Where is. For example, the people of Jackson, Mississippi, may have noticed a meandering balloon trail around May 4 of this year.
During the same period, the company conducted tests of its new solid-state X-band radar technology platform, the HiPointer 100. The tests appear to be taking place near Norfolk, Va., With an experimental license. approved from April 5 to October. 2, 2021. Unlike those roving balloon tests, the HiPointer 100 tests appear to be limited to about three miles from a Norfolk naval facility.
The HiPointer 100 is primarily designed as a “perimeter defense and port security” tool according to Raven Aerostar. The device is highly portable and easy to use with minimal configuration. This includes the ability to be mounted on balloons, although it is not clear if it is used in ongoing balloon tests.
At least some of the balloon trials have been associated with defense technology contracts. FCC records reflect authorization of balloon flights around Stanley, New Mexico, through December 1, 2021. Additional application documents indicate testing involves work under the Technical Information Contract defense FA8075-14-D-D0014. The identification of the contract appears to be a typo of FA8075-14-D-00014, a $ 1.8 billion research contract held by Alion Science and Technology Corporation.
The larger contract includes projects like this one, focusing on “Unmanned Aircraft Systems for Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance, Targeting and Precision Strike Capabilities for Naval Air Systems Command Program Office persistent maritime UAS ”.
Raven Aerostar himself celebrated a five-year multi-role contract from Naval Sea Command Systems (NAVSEA) in February of last year. The cited works relate to the “unmanned vessel market” and their “perception radar solution”, according to Aerostar Technical Solutions CEO Michael Schwartz.
The company has a rich history of defense and intelligence work. In 2011, engineers associated with the current balloon program received awards from the Naval Air Warfare Center for their work in support of intelligence efforts in Afghanistan. Specifically, the award cited the company’s work on the Ground-Based Persistent Surveillance System (PGSS), which is designed to monitor insurgent activity with high-persistence balloons.
Raven Aerostar also notably performed tests involving balloons carrying ISR systems at altitudes of approximately 65,000 feet over six states in 2019. United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) sponsored this work as part of a experience to assess whether this could be a useful additional tool to support counter-narcotics and disaster response operations, as well as more general intelligence gathering requirements.
Although often overlooked, balloons have seen a modern resurgence as a recognition and communication platform in recent years, with intense interest from more than one service branch. The war zone previously reported on the military’s plans to take advantage of the balloons capable of deploying swarms of high-altitude drones and penetrating contested airspace for extended periods while carrying radar, electronic warfare systems and electronic intelligence, network relays and other payloads as a key future operational concept.
Recent contracts with NAVSEA suggest that the Navy may be interested in similar ideas. With this in mind, it is also important to note that high altitude balloons with unspecified payloads were used in a recent large-scale exercise focused on the evaluation of various unmanned capabilities and concepts of operations. associates that the service held off the coast of Southern California in April.
Although the Navy does not appear to have specified the type of balloons used during this exercise, called Unmanned Integrated Combat Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21), images and footage released by the service show people wearing helmets. security with the Raven Aerostar logo on them launching a Thunderhead.