The use of airships/dirigibles in the past conjures up memories of the Zeppelin bombings of London in WW I. The military use of airships has ebbed and flowed over the years; but, now, with the need for cost effective persistent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, interest has resurged. Today, with our nation at war, there is a renewed interest in the use of airship and aerostats for military purposes, such as ISR, port surveillance, and military airlift. The purported advantages of these platforms are their capabilities to fly at a high altitude, endure long missions, and expand the surveillance area when sensors (e.g., cameras) are on board. Today, airships provide reconnaissance and communication services for military operations ranging from combat missions to humanitarian assistance. For example, these airships/platforms with the wide variety of ISR packages on board provide area commanders a better picture of the situational environment enhancing mission planning and battlefield operations. In addition, some systems such as Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System (TARS) have a sophisticated photographic system that provides tactical information to ground commanders and helps with the detection of improvised explosive devices as well.
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