Army deal has Lockheed Martin flying high

When one lays eyes on the latest tool being added to the warfighting efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan old-fashioned weather balloons or blimps is often what comes to mind.

But Lockheed Martin Corp.'s tethered aerostat surveillance systems, which are equipped with sensors for continuous surveillance, detection and communications for multiple missions, offer the Army and its soldiers a birds-eye view of the action in real-time.

The Bethesda, Md., company won a $77.5 million contract to supply more aerostats, sensors, ground stations and mooring systems to Iraq and Afghanistan. Delivery of the Persistent Threat Detection Systems, which are built and tested at the Defense giant's Akron, Ohio facility, will begin in the next few months, the company said.

In 2004, Lockheed Martin delivered two aerostat systems to the Army for use in Iraq. Altogether the company has delivered 8,000 aerostats for military and commercial use.

Tethered to re-locatable mooring stations, the helium-filled, lighter-than-air aerostats can stay airborne around the clock.

Once deployed the threat detection systems will be operated and maintained by Lockheed Martin Technical Operations, Colorado Springs, Colo. The Army's Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, Project Manager for Night Vision, Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition and Product Manager for Robotic and Unmanned Sensors will handle program and acquisition management.

Ethan Butterfield is a staff writer for Government Computer News' affiliate publication, Washington Technology.

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