Lighter-than-air Force.Aerostats positioned 10,000 feet over America's Southern border provide effective intrusion alarms
Hey, hey hey, drug smugglers. Say "hi" to Fat Alberts -- burly remote-controlled balloons officially known as the tethered Aerostat Radar Systems.
Aerostats perform very unusual and highly sensitive Adj. 1. highly sensitive - readily affected by various agents; "a highly sensitive explosive is easily exploded by a shock"; "a sensitive colloid is readily coagulated" communications duties for elite government law enforcement and broadcasting organizations in situations where no other practical way to do a job exists.
Like a flying intrusion detector, 11 aerostats with inboard Built in. Inboard devices are built into the main unit. Contrast with outboard. See onboard. radars troll for drug-hauling aircraft, along an arc that stretches from Puerto Rico Puerto Rico (pwār`tō rē`kō), island (2005 est. pop. 3,917,000), 3,508 sq mi (9,086 sq km), West Indies, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) SE of Miami, Fla. to Yuma, Ariz. In the early 1990s, one aerostat aer·o·stat
An aircraft, especially a balloon or dirigible, deriving its lift from the buoyancy of surrounding air rather than from aerodynamic motion. started flying the powerful antenna for a Voice of America-like TV station, TV Marti. The daily broadcasts show and tell the people of Cuba what their strongman doesn't want them to know.
Aerostats are packed to their fins with special radar payloads that would have mere hot air balloons, airships or blimps hissing with envy. Airmen -- retired and active-duty -- are involved. A contracted team of 30 people runs each radar site. Pairs of ground radar airmen visit those outposts for quality assurance. A few calibrate To adjust or bring into balance. Scanners, CRTs and similar peripherals may require periodic adjustment. Unlike digital devices, the electronic components within these analog devices may change from their original specification. See color calibration and tweak. the sensitive onboard gear each year.
Those airmen nurture the future of counterdrug aviation's front line in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . America's current 12-ship aerostat force runs on gasoline, helium and oxygen to stay aloft. There are three sizes of aerostats, but soon there will only be one, because payload sizes have shrunk. Expect each of today's federal aerostats to be twice as big as a Goodyear blimp The Goodyear Blimp is the collective name for a fleet of blimps operated by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company for advertising purposes and for use as a television camera platform for aerial views of sporting events. within five years.
The current Fat Alberts use 275,000 to 590,000 cubic feet of helium. The 420,000 size will be the norm, said retired Chief Master Sgt. Stan Zduniak, the tethered aerostat radar system program manager. He and most of the military team work for the Air Combat Command Program Management Squadron, Newport News Newport News, independent city (1990 pop. 170,045), SE Va., on the Virginia peninsula, at the mouth of the James River, off Hampton Roads, near Norfolk; inc. 1896. , Va.
Most balloons "hang around" for five years. When the TV Marti aerostat was replaced last year, a quality assurance team accompanied retired Chief Master Sgt. Mike Pallone, director of engineering and technical operations, Office of Cuba Broadcasting, to view the new aerostat at Tethered Attached to a data or power source by wire or fiber. Contrast with untethered. Communications in Elizabeth City, N.C.
Fat Alberts come to life -- thanks to laser cutting and chemical bonding processes -- on the spacious production floors there or at ILC Dover, in Dover, Del. The newest aerostat is up and running fine, Pallone said.
Airborne intrusion system
The Treasury, Justice, Transportation and Defense departments' ability to deter drug cargo smugglers depends on an airborne intrusion system. Since America's southern flank isn't exactly endowed with high-altitude peaks to place such radars on, hovering aerostats with onboard radar do the job.
Fat Albert's radars work with fixed-wing aircraft radar, to show the threats in North America's skies. Airmen and federal agents use the live radar data feed to distinguish airborne drug planes from the clutter of daily air traffic headed for America from the south.
The sum of those sensor warnings translates into a call for U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, Coast Guard or Air Force aircraft to meet airborne threats that inevitably turn up onscreen on·screen or on-screen
adj. & adv.
1. As shown on a movie, television, or display screen.
2. Within public view; in public. . Examples of threats range from Payne Stewart's ill-fated jet, to pilots making airdrops and strange stops under falsified flight plans.
Federal responders include the Florida Air National Guard's F-15 fighter airmen, on air defense alert duty at Homestead Air Reserve Base Homestead Joint Air Reserve Base (JARB) (formerly Homestead Air Force Base), is a United States Air Force base located in South Miami-Dade County, Florida adjacent to the city of Homestead. It is the home of the 482d Fighter Wing. near Miami [see "FANGS Bared," December 1999].
Our man at TV Marti
The TV Marti program that beams into Cuba is the only part of the government broadcast portfolio that requires help from an aerostat. The station's original single-channel antenna went "up in the air" on a Fat Albert in 1992, Pallone recalls from his compound at the Office of Cuba Broadcasting in Miami.
"Our mandate is telling the people of Cuba what their government won't tell them," he said. Then he detailed how the federal government came to broadcast his station's programming from mangroves in Florida into Cuba, from a big balloon.
Intrepid staffers at the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency The U.S. Information Agency (USIA) was the public diplomacy arm of the U.S. government. The USIA existed "to further the national interest by improving United States relations with other countries and peoples through the broadest possible sharing of ideas, information, and examined their options with Pallone, the man hired to mastermind the technical sides of their TV station. Mounting the TV antenna on a plane or a boat was outmoded. It would be pricey and place people in harm's way. Fat Albert provided them with a technical solution.
"To obtain a line-of-sight signal into Cuba, I would need a 10,000-foot tower stand. The guy wires would stretch several miles in three directions," Pallone said. "That's not practical, so we fly at 10,000 feet and put our signal into the center of Havana."
The TV Marti signal is unconventional. Information now rains down into Cuba on three channels. Since the balloon moves like a kite at 10,000 feet, the payload compensates by panning its TV beam to lock on the target. The combination of Fat Albert, three channels and herky-jerky movement has Castro's jammers gagging to stop the truth from connecting with viewers.
Under a separate contract with Lockheed-Martin Corp., Pallone's people take care of the custom UHF (Ultra High Frequency) The range of electromagnetic frequencies from 300 MHz to 3 GHz. In the U.S., analog television has used UHF channels 52 to 69 in the 700 MHz band. system that flies on a Fat Albert. It's a 1,200-pound payload Pallone developed with his chief engineer, Ray Ulrick.
Inside Fat Albert
Similar in size to the TV antenna, each aerostat radar is a work of art. The rig hangs upside down on a truss truss, in architecture and engineering, a supporting structure or framework composed of beams, girders, or rods commonly of steel or wood lying in a single plane. inside the tethered titan, like a sleeping bat. It spins from that position, said Staff Sgt. Brian Lavigne, a ground radar airman and aerostat quality assurance evaluator.
To compensate for the wind movement, a system of gyros This article is about the food dish. For other uses, see Gyro.
Gyros or gyro (Greek: γύρος, "turning") (IPA: [ˈjɪːɹəʊ] work with direction-finding beacons. Fat Albert constantly updates and rights itself, so radar controllers know what direction is north.
"Working on fixed ground radar, we didn't have that problem. We got our compass out, we aligned the radar to north, and we were done. You don't realize anything exists like this until you get the job. It's unique, but reliable," Lavigne said.
Servicing an unmanned aerostat makes for some interesting ground duty. Imagine an entire aircraft darting about the tarmac in the slightest wind, like a greased weather vane. To control this darting, the balloon's nose rotates on a mooring MOORING, mar. law. The act of arriving of a ship or vessel at a particular port, and there being anchored or otherwise fastened to the shore.
2. Policies of insurance frequently contain a provision that the ship is insured from one place to another, "and till tower, and the rear wags with brute force on a custom-curved steel monorail monorail, railway system that uses cars that run on a single rail. Typically the rail is run overhead and the cars are either suspended from it or run above it. . People enter the aerostat through what is essentially a large black cloth bag. To climb onboard, technicians snub the rambunctious radar flyer with strategically laced ropes, like the little Lilliputians who worked on Gulliver.
Inside, a technician checks the radar payload. She can hear people talking outside, on the ground, 20 feet below. Her work compartment is sealed from the
helium hull. If not, she would speak in a squeaky soprano voice.
Like most technicians, she carries a respirator respirator /res·pi·ra·tor/ (res´pi-ra?ter) ventilator (2).
cuirass respirator see under ventilator. pack, radios and a knife. If something unsafe happens, she can cut the gore fabric and tumble out unceremoniously.
The aerostats have weather limitations, but their $500-per-hour cost is the lowest for low-level radar surveillance data, said Ron Morrow, site manager at Cudjoe Key, Fla.
The 2001 aerostat operation and modernization program budget is just over $42 million. A five-year upgrade program keeps the aerostat community busy, said Maj. Antone LeFevere, surveillance division chief at Air Combat Command's Program Management Squadron.
"We're putting money into standardization," he said. "It's watching over us, and it works."
Fat Albert blockhouse blockhouse, small fortification, usually temporary, serving as a post for a small garrison. Blockhouses seem to have come into use in the 15th cent. to prevent access to a strategically important objective such as a bridge, a ford, or a pass. tales
Sometimes, particularly during bad weather, Fat Albert wants to leave his pad -- badly.
Fat Albert and his tether tether
to tie an animal up by the head or neck so that it can graze but not move away. See also barton tether. broke loose from the pad during a storm at Cudjoe Key, Fla., in 1984. Away he went, eventually lifting fishing and military boats a few feet from the sea, while several skippers cut the tangly tether away from their vessels. A Navy jet had to shoot down Fat Albert.
From that experience, experts built portable flight control signal boxes that can be loaded into trucks, boats or helicopters, and guide Fat Albert down.
Several years later, they had an opportunity to test the box.
A TV Marti aerostat and 20,000 feet of cable broke, heading for the Everglades. An electronic technician chased the aerostat to the Everglades by helicopter.
Technicians sent signals, and dumped helium from Fat Albert's hull. The aerostat landed on trees in the Everglades. The contract team rappelled into the Everglades from helicopters, where it took a week to recover the balloon. There was minor damage to the television payload, but otherwise it was safely recovered and returned to service.
Technicians use three flight control boxes to deal with Fat Albert's wandering ways. They keep one on each pad, and a spare at their ground station. It's a true "flyaway fly·a·way
1. Made or worn loose or draped, as to allow or suggest fluttering in the wind: a flyaway coat; long, flyaway hair.