U.S. Army accepts last Persistent Threat Detection System aerostat

FORT BELVOIR, Va. — The Per­sis­tent Threat Detec­tion Sys­tem entered its next chap­ter, May 29, as Lt. Col. Michael Par­o­di, prod­uct man­ag­er Mete­o­ro­log­i­cal and Tar­get Iden­ti­fi­ca­tion Capa­bil­i­ties, was on hand at the Lock­heed Mar­tin facil­i­ty in Akron, Ohio; to accept the deliv­ery of the last PTDS ordered.

The Army accept­ed the last ordered Per­sis­tent Threat Detec­tion Sys­tem on May 29, 2012. Many of the sys­tems are cur­rent­ly pro­vid­ing a sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness for Sol­diers serv­ing in Afghanistan.
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Since its orig­i­nal intro­duc­tion as a quick reac­tion capa­bil­i­ty the Army has pro­cured 66 sys­tems that have been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Per­sis­tent Threat Detec­tion Sys­tem, or PTDS, is a large aero­stat teth­ered to a moor­ing plat­form, which is accom­pa­nied by a Ground Con­trol Sta­tion, or GCS. The sys­tem is equipped with both visu­al and audio sur­veil­lance tech­nol­o­gy.

Since the Civ­il War, when Union Sol­diers uti­lized hot air bal­loons to serve as a sur­veil­lance plat­form, lighter than air tech­nol­o­gy has been a part of the Army’s inven­to­ry. As U.S. forces began a troop surge in Afghanistan while main­tain­ing secu­ri­ty in Iraq the need to pro­vide sol­diers with a per­sis­tent view of the bat­tle­field was para­mount.

In 2008, (then) Sec­re­tary of Defense Robert Gates direct­ed an Intel­li­gence, Sur­veil­lance and Recon­nais­sance, or ISR, surge ded­i­cat­ed to pro­vid­ing Sol­diers with the abil­i­ty to under­stand their envi­ron­ment. One of the sys­tems that was field­ed to sup­port the ISR surge was PTDS.

PTDS has proven to be a great asset for Sol­diers, Sailors, Air­men, Marines as well as our coali­tion part­ners serv­ing in harm’s way.” said Par­o­di. “They have been instru­men­tal in pro­vid­ing mis­sion over­watch, detect­ing [impro­vised explo­sive devices] and assist­ing in the cap­ture of numer­ous high val­ue tar­gets and weapons caches.”

PTDS acts as a force mul­ti­pli­er for com­man­ders on the ground as it can be uti­lized to scan large areas of ter­rain for poten­tial insur­gent activ­i­ty while inter­act­ing with var­i­ous oth­er sen­sors to give a com­plete pic­ture of poten­tial threats. Infor­ma­tion col­lect­ed by the sys­tem is dis­trib­uted to sol­diers via var­i­ous routes includ­ing the Dis­trib­uted Com­mon Ground Sys­tem-Army, or DCGS‑A; which is an intel­li­gence tool.

Con­voy pro­tec­tion, counter-impro­vised explo­sive device and a real-time per­spec­tive of engage­ments with the ene­my are amongst the roles PTDS play for troops on the ground.

“Our com­man­ders in the field have incor­po­rat­ed PTDS into many of their mis­sions includ­ing force pro­tec­tion; while local cit­i­zens rec­og­nize the plat­form pro­vides an unblink­ing eye keep­ing watch for insur­gent activ­i­ty,” not­ed Par­o­di.

The sys­tem oper­ates 24 hours a day uti­liz­ing a crew of five oper­a­tors work­ing 12 hours shifts. With an abil­i­ty to reach heights that are out of the range of most ene­my threats, PTDS offers the user a vast per­spec­tive of the bat­tle­field.

Since its orig­i­nal field­ing the sys­tem has seen numer­ous improve­ments includ­ing the addi­tion of a sec­ond sen­sor to pro­vide greater ISR cov­er­age as well as improve­ments to the aero­stat itself, bet­ter weath­er effects sur­viv­abil­i­ty and weath­er fore­cast­ing, increased lift and pay­load capa­bil­i­ty, and improved net­work and equip­ment con­nec­tiv­i­ty.

U.S. Army