The US Army has received the first airborne, wide-area persistent surveillance system (AWAPSS) from BAE Systems. It is hoped that it will improve all–round surveillance and tracking, even during night-time situations.

The AWAPSS, used to enhance day or night situational awareness in complex operational environments, will be fitted to the Constant Hawk aerial surveillance aircraft operating in Iraq to detect, locate and identify improvised explosive devices or other ambush situations during night-time situations.

The army awarded Bae a $23.8m contract for two complete systems and two spare sensors. Eventually the Pentagon intends to buy seven AWAPSS kits for use in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

AWAPSS features three segments, including a sensor on the aircraft-mounted gimballed platform, an image and data storage unit and the operator’s station.

While detecting and tracking, the system captures and records 100MP images in the visible and infrared wavebands at a spatial and temporal resolution.

As well as improving night-time capabilities the new system also has an improved automated target tracking, detecting and identifying capabilities supported by multispectral imaging.

Future enhancements will extend the system’s coverage and performance by supporting near real-time processing of intelligence to be transferred via data link to the mission control centre and supporting target analysts with improved processing tools.