As countries recognize the need to watch their borders, and especially their coasts, they’re running up against the reality of high operating costs for aerial surveillance. They’re also turning to a logical way around that problem: aerostats. These tethered airships offer very low operating costs and near-constant deployment, carrying optical and radar surveillance gear to altitudes that give them wide-area coverage. Israel has joined the USA as a leading developer of these systems, and a leading exporter as well. One of its customers is India.
In 2007, the Tamil Tigers’ (LTTE), which was responsible for assassinating Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, attacked Sri Lankan military bases and oil facilities using an unusual weapon for guerrillas and terrorists: aircraft. The implications of those attacks were regional in scope, and in time, aerostats’ value would be driven home by another surprise, this time from Islamic LET(Lashkar-e-Taiba) terrorists operating from Pakistan. The gaps it revealed in India’s defenses, and the deployment of the existing Israeli aerostat systems to protect critical areas in the attack’s aftermath, strongly underlined the systems’ value. Now India’s Navy is now buying them, too, and additional purchases are expected.