Author Robert Fulghum allegedly once wrote, “It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber.” (It was either him or the bumper of a Honda Civic.) Well, I don’t know about the education budget or the going rate for gingersnaps, but I can tell you that the armed forces are indeed cutting back. As evidence, their newest weapon to combat drug smuggling in the Caribbean is a balloon on a really long string.
OK, the balloon is actually the Aerostar TIF-25K—a helium-filled surveillance device equipped with cameras and sensors. The Aerostar can fly at altitudes of up to 2,000 feet and is tethered to a Navy ship below. Though it’s a rather frill-less technology that’s been around for decades, the blimp boosts each ship’s radar range to 50 miles from five miles. It can even ID vessels up to 15 miles away. Once the Aerostar detects something fishy, the Navy can then launch an unmanned aircraft system named Puma AE to get a closer look.