KEY WEST, Fla. (April 24, 2013) The Military Sealift Command high-speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K aerostat gets underway from Key West to conduct a series of at-sea capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat can support future Operation Martillo counter transnational organized crime operations in the U.S. 4th fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released) 130424-N-IC228-114
Does any of this look familiar? (More here)
Anyone know why the original Coast Guard Aerostat program was terminated?
The original Aerostat program went away because (1) the overall set of operations was successful at pushing traffic into the deep CARIB and (2) all of the money dried up for the drug war. See the Navy hydrofoil program, the CG’s Surface Effect Ship program, the CG’s EC-130 program, and all of the other war on drugs programs that slowly went away during the early 90’s. Unfortunately the towed Aerostat program was contracted so it was easy to turn off.
Even the Cudjoe Key fixed Aerostat is slated is slated to go dark this year.
Chuck, I was a plankowner and XPO of MAPDET TWO “Blue Crew” on board the RCA vessel Altantic Sentry from 1985 to 1987. RCA was contracted to build a system to conduct a “flyoff” with the TISCOM system installed aboard the vessels Abshire Tide and Jan Tide. 12 of us trained at the RCA facility in Satellite Beach Florida in the late winter of 1986. After training, we took the system north to Woods Hole to validate flying of the Aerostat in a northern environment. We conducted 2 months of testing and fishery patrols on Georges Banks. Our system won the “flyoff” against the TISCOM system off the coast of North Carolina in the spring of 1986. I was driving the RHI for the picture of the Atlantic Sentry that is posted during on board training off Port Canaveral in 1986. The system was very effective in tracking surface targets but lacked as an air search radar. My understanding is that due to the air search ability and funding, the system was transferred to the Army. I still have a 4″ thick training manual for the system and a lot of pictures taken during my tenure. I believe MAPDET TWO as credited with 9 busts during the 1 1/2 years I was assigned.
9 years late to this post, but I was also part of the MapDet team in Key West and plankowner of the Abshire Tide (but I sailed mostly on the Jan Tide). I remember going through the RCA training, but I always thought it Cocoa Beach (thanks for the correction!). I was one of the Electronic Techs.
When Admiral Yost was Commandant 25% of the Coast Guard budget was allocated to the War on drugs. When Admiral Kime became Commandant in 1990 he felt the role of the Coast Guard should return to “traditional” ones. The allocation of funds for anti-drug were reallocated — Air interdiction was eliminated along with CG Riverine program as well as a reduction in shipboard activities.– Aerostat was easy to eliminate because it was contract
the HSV-2 Swift is a privately owned ship under charter to MSC and is expected to go off-charter (i.e. end of contract) later this year to be replaced by the USNS Spearhead.JHSV-1.
FOURTH Fleet is big on using a HSV for these kinds of soft power missions.
MSC also provided a modified T-AGOS ship to support aerostat operations in the Carib about 20 years ago.
“Anyone know why the original Coast Guard Aerostat program was terminated?”
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I do NOT know the exact reason but mess deck intel at the time was that the CG made money on the Aerostat program and other services wanted that money. In other words, Congress gave us so much money per platform but yet it did not cost the CG as much to man these units. The rumor was that this program made $10m per platform. Again, this is what the rumor was at the deckplate level where I was at. We never rcvd any type of briefing, we were just told we were being decomm’d within 3 months. The way the individual teams were made up, we never got to see each other as a total unit. When each of our teams were inport (not on our 27 day underway period), we all went to work at other local units.
We turned over our platform to the Army and they took over the mission for a few more years after that before they got out, as I understand.
At the time of decommissioning, the Gulf War was over, DOD was in the middle of a major drawdown and the other services were looking for a job. Somehow this mission got turned over to the ARMY of all services.
I remember having to go get all of our weapons, crypto, and CG-SWII’s and other CG related gear/paperwork off…at the same time, the Army was putting their gear on.
One of the best units I’ve ever been on!!! Two man staterooms at the E-4 level, civilian cooks, a civilian crew to run the ship, open galley, no boardings, getting to wear civilian clothes underway (unless we were re-fueling a 110″ or meeting up with another cutter to pass them remote electronic gear).
I was the last Army NCOIC of the Atlantic Sentry before it departed Key West for good back in ’94. The soldiers involved were mostly MI types, Ground Surveillance (hey!) or SIGINT, along with a few commo folks. I arrived there in ’93 after 4 years of fun, travel, and adventure (Including a recent deployment to Somalia) with the 10th Mountain Division and I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Easily the best job I had in my 20 years, 4 months, and 21 days of active military service.
I was told at the time that the program died due to lack of funding. It had been decided, by “Those who decide” that drug war funding was to be spent less on interdiction and more on “education” (Pamphlets, seminars, and lots of TV ads).
Does anyone remember the egg in the frying pan…”this is your brain on drugs”.
Anyway…I’ll always remember my time aboard with great fondness. NJAS
SFC, U.S. Army (retired)
p.s. what’s a plankholder?
Jim, Plankowner is a member of the first crew.
Some additional here, plus the use of a really small drone. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2316307/Navys-new-high-tech-drone-defense-Caribbean-drug-smugglers.html
The successes and challenges of operating aerostats in Afghanistan.
There is an interesting quote at the end, “As the war in Afghanistan winds down, PGSS (Persistent Ground Surveillance System, Chuck) will begin transition to other foreign and domestic government agencies,” the Rapid Reaction Technology Office said. “The persistent ISR capabilities of this system make it viable in a variety of operations, such as border patrol, port and harbor patrol, and more.”
Report of an aerostat mounted radar with MDA capability. Interestingly the radar is also used on USCG C-130Js: http://www.ainonline.com/aviation-news/paris-air-show/2013-06-16/iai-delivers-aerostat-radar-maritime-radar-upgrades
This thread brings back memories. I ran the Navy Weather Office at Boca Chica 82-85. Supported MAPDet, even have a ballcap, the SES, and the Cudjoe Key aerostat – my forecasters did it without live radar and only in ’85 did we get lightning detection display.
A system is getting a three year trial over Washington DC (based in Aberdeen, MD): http://defensetech.org/2014/12/16/radar-blimps-to-monitor-washington-area-skies/#ixzz3M8KFz0wY
Found this interesting
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks through ice in the Arctic circle, July 14, 2015. This image was taken by an Aerostat, a self-contained, compact platform that can deploy multiple sensor payloads and other devices into the air. U.S. Coast Guard photo. – See more at: http://coastguard.dodlive.mil/2015/07/remote-rescues/#sthash.I5qPbq8j.dpuf
The US is donating a tethered aerostat radar system to the Philippines. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/622839/phl-navy-receives-radar-blimp-for-maritime-monitoring/story/?utm_source=GMANews&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=news
Apparently aerostats are still alive and well.
Lockheed Martin still integrating new sensors.