Wasp aerostat

Lighter Than Air Systems (LTAS)-built aerostat systems will participate in the US Army’s Network Integration Experiment (NIE) 14.2, which is scheduled to be held at Fort Bliss in Texas, and White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, US, during April and May 2014.

Delivered to the Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC)/Army Forces Strategic Command in 2013, the two Winch aerostat small platforms (WASP) will be returning to NIE 14.2 as a baseline system following their successful mission at NIE 14.1 as a system under evaluation.

The WASP is a self-contained tactical aerostat system providing a secure communications package to enhance communications coverage, reduce the retransmissions forward positioning requirement, and also facilitate operational dispersion.

Capable of carrying a variety of payloads in support of military operations, the mobile, tactical-sized aerostat primarily provides improvements in complex terrain where current systems are restricted, according to the company.

Designed to be operated from fixed sites and remote locations, the tethered system is controlled through a launcher operated by soldiers, and remains aloft primarily through the use of buoyant lighter than air gases.

The NIE 14.2 exercises will primarily focus on validation of joint force network capabilities, improvement of unified land operations with communications nodes based on aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), integration of networking technologies into the armoured brigade combat team, development of ways to deliver, collect and process integrated, multi-source intelligence to front-line warfighters, and also make field command posts more mobile and efficient.

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In addition, the exercise will involve beyond line of sight communications, expeditionary signal brigade tropospheric scatter communications, network intrusion prevention, cellular communications, electromagnetic spectrum operation, condition based maintenance, as well as operational energy solutions.

Image: The Winch aerostat small platform at a US Army base. Photo: courtesy photo.

Defence Technology