RECONNAISSANCE

Balloons

For material on the use of balloons in the American Civil War, see "Air Reconnaissance" under the "U.S. Civil War" topic heading. The use of balloons for reconnaissance purposes is also covered in some general materials found under the "General Aerial Imagery" heading.

Bolkcom, Christopher. Potential Military Use of Airships and Aerostats. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress, 1 Sep. 2006. Available at: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RS21886.pdf.

"Summary": "The Department of Defense (DOD) has a history of using lighter-than-air (LTA) platforms. Aerostats have recently been fielded to protect deployed U.S. troops. Contemporary interest is growing in using airships for numerous missions. This report examines the various concepts being considered and describes the issues for Congress."

Bowley, Graham. "US Spy Balloons Hover over Afghans, Causing Unease." New York Times, 12 May 2012. [http://www.nytimes.com]

White 117-foot-long surveillance balloons, called aerostats by the military, "have become constant features" at almost every military base in Afghanistan. "[T]he balloons, with infrared and color video cameras, are central players in the American military's shift toward using technology for surveillance and intelligence. In recent years, they have become part of a widening network of devices -- drones, camera towers at military bases and a newer network of street-level closed-circuit cameras monitoring Kabul's roads -- that have allowed American and Afghan commanders to keep more eyes on more places where Americans are fighting."

Crouch, Tom D. The Eagle Aloft: Two Centuries of the Balloon in America. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1983.

Davies, Merton E., and William R. Harris. RAND's Role in the Evolution of Balloon and Satellite Observation Systems and Related U.S. Space Technology. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1988. [Petersen]

Jonkers, Roy K. [COL/USAF (Ret.)] "Cold War Balloon Intelligence." AFIO Weekly Intelligence Notes 40-98 (20 Oct. 1998). [http://www.his.com/~afio/]

"The UK has released information on Project 119L revealing details about the US/UK aerial photo reconnaissance ... conducted in the early and mid-1950's over the Soviet Union.... The US program used 128 feet-wide balloons,... carrying a 400 lb gondola packed with photographic equipment. The US spent $68 million producing about 3,500 balloons.... The balloons were designed to fly at 40,000 - 60,000 feet.... On departing Soviet territory they were recovered by USAF C-119 aircraft, which sent a radio signal causing the gondola to detach itself from the balloon. By February 1956 the US had launched 461 balloons. Most never made it across the Iron Curtain, blown off-course or shot down. Some 42 gondolas were recovered.... The project was terminated in February 1956.... (The Times, London, 10 Aug. 98; The Telegraph, London, Aug. 10, 98)"

Lebow, Eileen F. A Grandstand Seat: The American Balloon Service in World War I. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1998.

From publisher: The "American Balloon Service worked in combat to help direct artillery fire more accurately and provide essential intelligence on enemy troop movements.... By the U.S. entry [in]to the war in 1917, the balloon service [had] evolved into an effective, disciplined fighting unit.... Reminiscences from balloon veterans form the basis of this book."

Peebles, Curtis. The Moby Dick Project: Reconnaissance Balloons Over Russia. Washington, DC: Smithsonian, 1991.

Pincus, Walter. "High-Tech Balloon to Help Forces Keep Watch." Washington Post, 20 Aug. 2009. [http://www. washingtonpost.com]

According to U.S. and Afghan military officials, "[a] state-of-the-art observation balloon with round-the-clock video and sound surveillance capability has been installed several thousand feet above Kabul." The aerostat "has a full-motion video camera that can pan 360 degrees and provide nonstop, instant surveillance.... Aerostats have been used since 2004 at forward operating bases in Afghanistan and Iraq. Most have crews of five working in 12-hour shifts.... More than a dozen aerostats were used in Iraq to provide permanent surveillance over towns and cities, including Baghdad, and there are plans to install additional units in Afghanistan for better coverage of its cities and towns."

Tarancon, Alicia. "Army's All-Seeing, Super Blimp Makes Debut Flight." CNN, 10 Aug. 2012. [http://security.blogs.cnn.com]

"The U.S. Army has launched the debut flight of its massive Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle (LEMV), a souped-up blimp designed to fly continuously for 21 days and provide full surveillance of an area. The LEMV was launched [on 7 August 2012,] from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The test flight lasted about 90 minutes. The all-seeing airship is longer than football field and taller than a seven-story building, according to maker Northrop Grumman."

Thayer, Russell. "Dirigible Balloons for War Purposes." Journal of the Military Service Institution of the United States 7 (1886): 177-194.

Calder identifies this as "one of the earliest known technical discussions of the role of balloons in warfare."

Tomme, Ed ("Mel") [LTCOL/USAF], and Sigfred ("Ziggy") Dahl [COL/USAF]. "Balloons in Today’s Military? An Introduction to the Near-Space Concept." Air & Space Power Journal 19, no. 4 (Winter 2005). [http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj05/win05/tomme.html]

The U.S. military is considering the use of helium-filled balloons to augment its intelligence-gathering and communications infrastructures. "The near-space concept ... involves floating payloads into a region of the stratosphere where winds are light and weather virtually nonexistent. From that extremely high vantage point, the payloads have line of sight for hundreds of miles to the horizon, becoming long-range communications relays or providing intelligence over theater-sized areas." This article shows "why the near-space concept can become a valuable layer" in America's C4ISR systems, "with strengths that the other layers do not or cannot provide."

Welzenbach, Donald E. "Observation Balloons and Reconnaissance Satellites." Studies in Intelligence 30, no. 1 (Spring 1986): 21-28.

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