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Army buys $12M in blimps for Iraq

UPI | July 5, 2005

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Army is buying 16 tactical blimps for use in Iraq from a Columbia, Md., company, TCOM, L.P. announced Tuesday.

The deal is worth $12 million, and the unmanned, tethered blimps will be built in Elizabeth City, N.C.

The Tactical Aerostat System operates at about 1,000 feet, providing surveillance and a communications relay system aloft for up to a week at a time.


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The contract award is part of the Rapid Aerostat Initial Development system contract the Army has with Raytheon.

The airship's use was demonstrated last fall over Washington, when an A-170 manned blimp hovered over the city for 24 hours. The helium-based blimp can fly for hours even if pierced by small arms fire, according to the Army.

TCOM blimps are also being used by the Marine Airborne Re-Transmission System, a program developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to extend Marine radio communication beyond line-of-sight in Iraq.

The blimp provides an airborne relay for UHF, VHF, SINCGARS and EPLPRS radios, in addition to standard analog radios. The actual relays are contained in a ground system. If the aerostat were shot down, the radios would not be compromised.


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