The portfolio of the Army aerostat systems has doubled with the addition of 29 Persistent Ground Surveillance Systems (PGSS). Working in conjunction with the Navy, the Product Director (PD) Aerostats office accepted the transfer of the systems less than a year after direction was given to move the aerostats to the Army. The combination of the two capabilities under the Persistent Surveillance Systems-Tethered (PSS-T) program allows for better coverage of operational requirements.
The PGSS provides integrated persistent surveillance detection capabilities and full motion video dissemination to tactical operation centers. PGSS integrates different sensors, some of which have been used to detect small arms fire and improvised explosive device activity near airfields, fixed base encampments, forward operating locations, and other facilities in support of rapid reaction security forces in the area of operation. The PGSS provides day/night, 360-degree detection, surveillance, and target marking capability with an ability to stay aloft for up to 30 days. It is capable of detecting hostile fire, providing target coordinates to appropriate command and control centers, fire control centers, and is capable of marking ground targets for rapid reaction forces for engagement.
The majority of the newly acquired systems will be placed in contingency stock to support future operations worldwide for each of the combatant commands, said Lt. Col. Gregory Gastan, PD Aerostats. Two PGSS aerostat systems will be used for integration, testing and training.
Due to the similarities between the PGSS and Persistent Threat Detection system (PTDS), having the capabilities under the same umbrella within the Army PSS-T program of record is crucial in establishing an enduring and robust aerostat capability. "Combining PTDS and PGSS capabilities as a family, brings compatibility amongst them, allowing them to network together with many synergies and efficiencies that can be gained," said Gastan. The larger PTDS allows for a greater payload capability which is necessary for the fixed stable environments, while the smaller PGSS is easier to move around with fewer transportation requirements and can support missions where a larger payload is not needed.
"Aerostats have been a game changer. Army leadership has recognized this and decided to maintain an aerostat capability for the future," noted Gastan. Following prior engagements, aerostats have generally been discarded and when a new conflict would arise the Army had to start from the beginning to obtain and understand the capability. "We made a large investment in this fleet and they have provided significant benefits to Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Having the PGSS capability migrate into the PSS-T program will ensure the availability of a persistent Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capability for years to come'" said Gastan.