News: Aerostat makes a difference, helps find IED making materials
KABUL, Afghanistan – Improvised explosive device-making material was confiscated Jan. 28 with the assistance of surveillance equipment in Ghormach District, Faryab province.
The insurgents, who possessed the materials, had been watched from above by the Persistent Threat Detection System Aerostat, a balloon equipped with cameras that is manned 24 hours a day at International Security Assistance Force’s Forward Operating Base Ghormach.
Aerostat systems provide real-time images of the surrounding area, day or night, and have been strategically placed throughout Afghanistan. The system in Ghormach, which lies in the west of ISAF’s Regional Command North, was installed in early January and every day since then has kept watch over by providing security in the local area.
Once the insurgents’ location was known, Afghan Uniformed Police, along with ISAF soldiers, moved to the location of the suspicious individuals. They returned having found IED making materials and detained several individuals at the house, including one thought to be tied to a previous IED.
“I wish every unit had one,” said U.S. Army Capt. Scott Elwell, the commander of the ISAF unit. “Today is an excellent example of how the aerostat can be useful. We were able to watch them, follow them home and use all of our intel to make the command decision to go and get them. It worked extremely well.”
While the aerostat is used to locate IEDs and insurgents, it also provides an over watch capability for the ground commander. As images are captured by the aerostat they are simultaneously broadcast to Elwell and his staff, allowing real-time intelligence to their troops.
“Our number one goal is to keep them out of harm’s way,” said Ghormach’s aerostat site manager Bob Perkins. “We can look for and detect IED’s without putting a body out there but we can also keep an eye on them when they are out on patrol. I hope it gives them a little peace of mind.”
The aerostat’s capabilities and performance have impressed Staff Sgt. John Palamountain during his patrols and missions in Ghormach.
“It’s awesome,” said Palamountain. “When the info we get from the aerostat is fused with other intelligence we receive; it enables us to target much more effectively. It’s a force multiplier for us and it’s also a great early warning system. It’s really good to know they’re up there looking out for you.”
According to Elwell the aerostat has led to an increase in the locating of IED’s in Ghormach and that the presence of the balloon has already become a deterrent to insurgents.