In an ever-evolving landscape of military operations, the US Army is turning to a tried and tested technology to meet the challenges posed by advanced adversaries like Russia and China.

Aerostats, the blimp-like aircraft tethered to the ground, are making a comeback as the Army seeks to reinvigorate its aging fleet to serve as elevated surveillance and communication platforms. This revitalization effort marks a strategic shift away from the counterinsurgency focus of the past decades towards a more versatile and forward-looking role in the Army’s 2030 vision.

A New Era for Aerostats

Lareina Adams, a project manager for terrestrial sensors within the Army’s Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare, and Sensors (PEO IEW&S), shared insights during an interview at the recent Association of the United States Army (AUSA) convention in Washington.

Adams underscored the need to reimagine the potential of aerostats in response to the new military landscape, which increasingly demands adaptability, autonomy, and cutting-edge technology.

“Aerostat, I think, is synonymous with the old fight, counterinsurgency,” Adams stated, emphasizing the need for change.

She continued, “What we’re trying to see is if we can expand the applicability of the aerostat to other missions that will support the Army in 2030.”

The crux of this revitalization effort is to equip aerostats with autonomous capabilities, which promises to reduce logistical and staffing needs while enhancing operational versatility.

Although details remain scarce, autonomous features have already been observed in recent demonstrations. These innovations open the door to an array of possibilities, including the deployment of counter-drone payloads, which could be a game-changer in the ongoing battle against the proliferation of drones in modern warfare.