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German Military Orders $24.7M Surveillance Balloon to Protect Niger Base

The German military has ordered a €21 million ($24.7 million) Rheinmetall-made tethered balloon-based area reconnaissance system.

The system, also called an aerostat, will help protect a forward operating base in Niger, the  Düsseldorf-based defense manufacturer revealed.

Provides Lengthy Surveillance

The aerostat provides round-the-clock surveillance for extended periods of time. According to Rheinmetall, the system’s “highly sensitive sensors” are capable of spotting adversaries from “great distances.” 

Rheinmetall Canada will integrate the balloon’s sensors with the military’s C4I architecture for the current acquisition.

German armed forces are familiar with the system by their use in Afghanistan, according to Behoerden Spiegel. Other militaries, such as the US and Israel, have also used the system to protect their forward operating bases.

Spots Adversaries From ‘Great Distances’

The German website argued that though the balloon exterior is not hard enough to withstand bullets, in sparsely populated terrain such as deserts, this disadvantage is nullified, as the system can spot a potential adversary before it can approach close enough to attack.

Rheinmetall adds that the system will allow Niger-deployed German armed forces to “identify potentially hostile elements several kilometers away” and “initiate necessary countermeasures on a timely basis.” The manufacturer claimed that past experiences show that the system’s ability to spot hostiles from several kilometers away reduces the risk of attack by fifty percent. 

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