RT’s SKYSTAR 180 aerostat.
(photo credit: RT LTA SYSTEMS LTD.)
The US Army has named a surveillance aerostat made by Israeli defense firm RT as an approved defense technology for purchase, the company announced on Wednesday.
RT’s Skystar 180 balloon successfully completed the annual Army Expeditionary Warrior Experiment (AEWE), a lengthy process used to shortlist defense products for US acquisition.
The Skystar 180 system, frequently used by the IDF over Gaza during Operation Protective Edge last summer, includes a miniature, multi-sensor payload made by Israeli company CONTROP.
It serves army missions from the company to the brigade levels, according to RT.
The AEWE program, held at Fort Benning, Georgia, is used by the US Army to encourage companies from around the world to submit production-ready devices and products for approval.
“The selection and approval of the SkyStar 180 by the US Army is evidence of the system’s quality and its high-level technological capabilities, and it is a great honor for us,” said RT’s CEO, Rami Shmueli. “Our unique aerostat systems are the only long-distance aerial surveillance system that can operate from as high as 600 meters.”
SkyStar 180 is a small mobile balloon designed for tactical mid-range surveillance and public safety, police, and military applications.
It can carry day and night electro-optical payloads and a communication relay, suspended from a helium-filled balloon that is tethered to the ground.
The aerostat can lift a payload of up to 20 kilograms, providing surveillance coverage from an altitude of up to 1,000 ft. for up to 72 hours, after which it is brought down for a 30-minute helium refill. A two-person crew can fully maintain and operate the system.
Last year, RT began providing the platform to the Israel Police, which used them to help counter rioting by Palestinians in east Jerusalem.
The IDF’s Combat Intelligence Collection Unit uses the Skystar 180 and 300 aerostats for a variety of missions that include tactical intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
The balloons were a common sight near the border with Gaza Strip during the 50-day conflict with Hamas and Islamic Jihad last summer.